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Weird but True: Airline Passengers Happier

Have you been happier with the airlines lately? According to this year's J.D. Power & Associates 2013 North America Airline Satisfaction Study, more people must be, as airline satisfaction is at its highest level since 2006.

Results are based on seven factors: cost and fees, in-flight services, boarding/deplaning/baggage, flight crew, aircraft, check-in, and reservations. Amazingly (especially if you've flown lately), satisfaction improved year-over-year in all seven areas.

And while low-cost carriers yet again outperform traditional carriers, even the legacy lines are doing better. A senior manager at J.D. Power commented "traditional carriers have improved significantly across all seven factors, and it is a positive sign to see them turn a corner and starting to rise again, even as there is still more opportunity to improve." I give the phrase "more opportunity to improve" the understatement of the week award.

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Among the big carriers, Alaska ranked first for the sixth year in a row. Delta moved into second, and Air Canada came in third. On the low-cost carrier front, JetBlue dominated for the eighth consecutive year, followed by Southwest. Unsurprisingly, JetBlue came in first overall of any airline (for the ninth year in a row).

One of the most interesting—and also unsurprising—findings was that check-in satisfaction was highest among passengers who checked in online, rather than at an airport kiosk or the ticket counter. I know I'm definitely happier when I can cut down on the number of lines I have to stand in at the airport.

For full rankings and a breakdown by satisfaction factor, check out a summary of study results.

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