Something All Americans Agree On: Flight Prices Are Too Damn High

But some airlines may be more worth it than others, new J.D. Power data shows.

The annual J.D. Power North America Airline Satisfaction study just dropped, and the overarching trend? Travelers are not feeling very satisfied. The report reveals that customer satisfaction is down for the second year in a row. This lack of satisfaction can be attributed to "the current pattern of price hikes, staffing shortages and reduced routes continues," according to J.D. Power.

"If yield management were the only metric airlines needed to be successful in the long term, this would be a banner year for the industry because they are operating at peak economic efficiency," Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power, said in a statement shared with Thrillist. "From the customer perspective, however, that means planes are crowded, tickets are expensive and flight availability is constrained. While these drawbacks have not yet put a dent in leisure travel demand, if this trend continues, travelers will reach a breaking point and some airline brands may be damaged."

As someone who flies constantly for work—these drawbacks are noticed. Planes are cramped and uncomfortable, and I have yet to take a flight where that discomfort and the high costs of plane tickets hasn't been commented on by fellow travelers. My anecdotal evidence is backed up by J.D. Power's data.

Overall passenger satisfaction is down to 791 on a 1,000-point scale, which is a seven-point drop from last year. From 2021 to 2022, overall satisfaction dropped by 22 points. The largest area of discontent in 2023? Cost and fees. Satisfaction in that category has dropped 17 points from 2022.

The study found that the only people who actually seem happier are first and business class passengers. That makes a bit more sense for two reasons: That class of passenger is less likely to be motivated by price, and airlines seem to be investing a great deal of time and money into improving their premium offerings. Those of us in coach? We can keep cramming our bodies into those ass-numbing contraptions called "seats."

Dissatisfaction is most pronounced for basic economy and economy class passengers. Flights have been more expensive across the board, and price-conscious travelers have not been able to find relief even with the cheapest tier of air travel. Satisfaction among these travelers is down 19 points compared to 2022.

The only area where everyone seems happier, regardless of passenger class, is that the food and beverage options on flights are getting better.

Among airlines, JetBlue came away as the top-ranking airline for first and business class seating. Delta followed in second place, and United Airlines came in third. For premium economy seating, Delta placed first, JetBlue was second, and Alaska Airlines was third. Economy and basic economy seating was most satisfying with Southwest Airlines for the second year in a row. Behind Southwest in the ranking were Delta and then JetBlue.

Hopefully airlines will take this information into consideration and lower these damn ticket prices! Until then, check out our roundup of flight deals, updated regularly.

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Opheli Garcia Lawler is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @opheligarcia and Instagram @opheligarcia.