A new report says that, despite being named as two of the top North American airlines, customer satisfaction with Air Canada and WestJet has fallen below average.
Consumer insights, data and analytics company J.D. Power recently published its 2023 North America Airline Satisfaction Study, ranking Canadian and U.S. airlines based on passenger satisfaction in eight metrics, including aircraft, baggage, boarding, check-in, cost and fees, flight crew, in-flight services and more.
As reported by Forbes, Air Canada was named the fifth-best airline for first/business class. JetBlue Airways took the top spot, while Delta Airlines, United Airlines and Alaska Airlines ranked second, third and fourth, respectively. In 2022, Air Canada was ranked fourth in this category.
Air Canada also ranked fifth in the premium economy category. Delta took first place, followed by JetBlue, Alaska Airlines then American Airlines. This is a step up from last year, when Air Canada placed sixth in this category.
In the economy/basic economy category, WestJet took fifth place while Air Canada was ranked eighth. Southwest Airlines took the top spot, followed by Delta, JetBlue and Alaska Airlines. Allegiant Air and United Airlines beat out Air Canada for the sixth and seventh spots, respectively. American Airlines, Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines rounded out the top ten. WestJet jumped up six spots after placing eleventh in this category in 2022, but Air Canada fell from its previous sixth place.
Despite the good placements in multiple categories, J.D. Power found that customer satisfaction with Air Canada and WestJet dipped below the average in its most recent survey.
On a 1,000-point scale, the average customer satisfaction figure was 782 for economy-class service, reports The Globe and Mail. WestJet saw a score of 777 while Air Canada scored 765. The Globe also noted that the rise in complaints at the Canadian Transportation Agency can also be a quantifiable way of measuring discontent, with the backlog exceeding 45,000 as of late APR, more than three times the number from 2022.
However, Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power noted that customer satisfaction has dropped across the board and is not specific to any one airline. Revenue is up for airlines, but consumer satisfaction has declined, which Taylor attributes to high costs and fees. High demand and pilot shortages are also contributing to lower satisfaction scores, the report notes.
“Continued high demand will make air travel comparatively worse, high demand means higher prices—the key driver of airline satisfaction,” said Taylor. “It will also mean more crowded aircraft. Until the pilot shortage is solved and/or demand lessens a bit, it’s likely we’ll continue to a slight decline in satisfaction.”
For Canada in particular, Taylor noted that passengers face higher prices and fewer trip options to many regions within the country and on international routes. “You want to fly to, say, Winnipeg, it might be a little more expensive, because it’s not the most popular destination versus, say, getting to Toronto,” Taylor said. The Globe and Mail reports that Air Canada and WestJet's focus on their respective East-West regions have played a part in reducing route options for air travellers.