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The Best Airlines of 2018 According to J.D. Power

J.D. Power is out with its annual list of the best airlines for customer satisfaction, and the ranking is once again topped by familiar liveries. Alaska Airlines is the best airline for the eleventh consecutive year—yes, eleventh—and Southwest topped the low-cost category for the second straight year.

Southwest unseated perennial winner JetBlue two years ago, in what passes for “drama” when it comes to this ranking, and hasn’t looked back since. The airline’s score went up this year following “investments made to its fleet.”

JetBlue finished second overall in both the low-cost and traditional categories, and saw its score improve year-over-year as well. Delta finished second in the traditional airline category, while American and United finished in the bottom two.

Customer satisfaction increased overall, continuing a seven-year trend of  increases, and both traditional and low-cost carriers improved. According to J.D. Power, these improvements are “driven by increased satisfaction with the aircraft (+15 points); a better experience with boarding/deplaning/baggage (+10); reservation (+11); and satisfaction with costs & fees (+8).”

One negative? In-flight Wi-Fi. “Compared with aircraft offering seat-back screens, passengers using their own mobile devices to access in-flight services are less satisfied with the variety of in-flight entertainment available and availability of in-flight services,” the report says. “Keeping pace with improvements in Wi-Fi technology is a difficult and expensive proposition for the airlines.”

“Best of” lists should always be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s fair to say that J.D. Power’s results probably align with most people’s experiences. Southwest and JetBlue have built their reputation on customer service and, in JetBlue’s case, a high-value flying experience with lots of perks and creature comforts.

Both best airlines have their drawbacks, too—Southwest is pretty no-frills and JetBlue has added some fees over the years, to name a few—but on balance they offer a good product. Delta has tried to emulate them in recent years, probably JetBlue more than Southwest. American and United have not followed suit, and their score reflects that.

J.D. Power bases it’s scores on survey responses from over 11,000 business and leisure customers.

Readers, which airline is your favorite?

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