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These 10 Airlines Have the Highest Customer Ratings

Airlines are not the industry most of us associate with customer satisfaction. Between the hacky jokes about the food, the pet deaths, and the people getting dragged off planes, it's kind of surprising we haven't just switched back to trains. But according to the well-informed folks at market-research firm J.D. Power, customer satisfaction in the industry is at an all-time high. 

J.D. Power put together this study by surveying the satisfaction of 11,508 business and leisure passengers between March 2017 and March 2018. It then ranked the airlines out of 1000 points in seven categories: cost and fees; in-flight services; aircraft; boarding, deplaning, and baggage; flight crew; check-in; and reservations. All those categories were then combined into an overall ranking for the airline.

But the industry's overall score was also calculated, and it's at an all-time high of 762 points, up six from last year, which was the previous record. 

“Operationally, it’s never been a better time to fly," said Michael Taylor, Travel Practice Lead at J.D. Power, in a press release. "Passengers perceive greater value in ticket prices, checking in has never been easier, passengers are more satisfied with the actual aircraft and airlines have improved their baggage-handling performance."

There is one category, however, that saw a decrease: in-flight services, which includes food, drink, and entertainment. “Today’s passengers expect trouble-free connectivity for personal devices and airlines are challenged to keep pace with the technology that can achieve that goal," Taylor explained. "This is important because passengers are far more likely to have a positive experience with an airline if they are entertained during their flight.”

But despite our inability to stream Netflix continuously throughout the flight, things are on the rise.

Here's the customer-satisfaction ranking: 

10. Frontier Airlines: 693 points.
9. United Airlines: 708 points.
8. Allegiant Air: 725 points.
7. American Airlines: 729 points.
6. Air Canada: 734 points.
5. WestJet: 747 points.
4. Delta Air Lines: 767 points.
3. Alaska Airlines: 775 points.
2. JetBlue Airways: 812 points.
1. Southwest Airlines: 818 points.

If you know about Southwest Airlines' cult following, it will come as no surprise that the low-cost carrier came in at the top spot. In fact, it's the second year in a row that Southwest has led the pack, and its dominance is partially attributed to recent investments in improving its fleet.

At just six points behind, JetBlue came in a second, which could be related to its insane flash sales and generosity with snacks and Wi-Fi. The highest scoring traditional airline was Alaska Airlines, for the 11th year in a row out of the 14 years this study has been running. People are really into its huge overhead bins. United scored the lowest of America's three big legacy carriers with 708 points, which may come as no surprise given a rough year of publicity. 

It may be surprising to learn, however, that the average score for a traditional carrier was 741, far lower than the 799 for low-cost carriers. This likely means that customers feel they're getting a greater value, and also that older carriers need to update their approaches to a new way of traveling. 

That is, until we finally switch back to trains.

h/tBusiness Insider

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James Chrisman is a News Writer at Thrillist. Send news tips to news@thrillist.com and follow him on Twitter @james_chrisman2.