JetBlue Airways’ “TrueBlue” frequent-flier program topped the list for customer satisfaction for the second consecutive year.
That’s according to J.D. Power, which revealed its 2018 Airline Loyalty Program Satisfaction Study on Wednesday. It’s the second year that the group looked specifically at airline loyalty programs, a study that’s in addition to J.D. Power’s long-running overall customer-satisfaction ratings for airlines.
JetBlue’s program bested runner-up Southwest and third-place finisher Alaska Airlines in the study that looked at the USA’s six biggest carriers. (Scroll down for full rankings)
J.D. Power found that travelers’ satisfaction improved year-over-year, rising 16 points on a 1,000-point scale as compared to 2017.
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“Airlines have worked hard over the past several years to demonstrate the value of their loyalty programs, particularly to general members,” Michael Taylor, J.D. Power’s Travel Practice Lead, said in a statement accompanying the study’s results.
Despite the increase, however, the study found that confusion about program rules -- including on how to redeem points -- was a significant drag on the satisfaction scores at some airlines.
Taylor said that while efforts by carriers in the study “are paying off in the form of improved overall satisfaction scores, airlines have a huge opportunity to improve when it comes to customers’ ease of understanding the rewards program.”
The 2018 J.D. Power study found that half of “general,” non-elite frequent-filers say they do not completely understand how their airline’s program works. Even among elite-level frequent-fliers, about a third found the rules of their programs to be confusing.
“JetBlue does very well in this area, though, across the industry, it’s only happening about half the time,” Taylor added.
J.D. Power's study focusing on frequent-flier programs is one of several that have begun to look not simply at airlines, but specifically at their loyalty programs. Another such study was released in March by The Points Guy website; that study gave Alaska Airlines' program the top rating, followed by those at Southwest and Delta.
Among other interesting findings in the J.D. Power study:
J.D. Power says “overall satisfaction scores increase 120 points among status members and 78 points among general members when their name is used by airline staff or when their preferences are recognized.”
The survey found that 74% of frequent-flier members say they prefer to keep collecting points or miles until they have enough to redeem for a big-ticket item. Only 13% “prefer to redeem their points for quick discounts,” according to J.D. Power.
Overall airline ratings
1. JetBlue (TrueBlue): 812 points (on a 1,000-point scale)
2. Southwest (Rapid Rewards): 798 points
3. Alaska Airlines (Mileage Plan): 791 points
4. Delta (SkyMiles): 786 points
Industry average: 776 points
5. American (AAdvantage): 749 points
6. United (MileagePlus): 746 points
Methodology: J.D. Power says its 2018 Airline Loyalty Program Satisfaction Study queried airline loyalty program members about their satisfaction in four areas. In order of importance, they were: earning and redeeming rewards; program benefits; account management; and member communication. J.D. Power says its results are based on 3,025 responses from frequent-flier program members that were fielded in May and June of 2018.
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