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Delta, Southwest lead way in 2024 J.D. Power airline rankings

Which airlines get the highest ratings from passengers? A major consumer analytics firm’s latest report offers some answers.

Delta Air Lines received leading scores among passengers who recently flew in first-class, business-class or premium economy cabins, according to results unveiled Wednesday from J.D. Power’s 2024 North American Airline Satisfaction Study.

Southwest Airlines led the way among economy travelers, and Delta came in second place.

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J.D. Power’s annual airline rankings incorporate survey results from recent travelers on a slew of factors that contribute to the air travel experience. Factors include ease of travel, interactions with staff, on-board experience and value for price paid.

This year’s rankings focused on airline performance between March 2023 and March 2024, as determined by surveys taken by passengers who flew the previous month.

Like recent years, the rankings are separated into three categories: first and business class, premium economy, and economy/basic economy.

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Here’s how major North American carriers fared.

Business/first class

  1. Delta (score of 743)
  2. JetBlue (736)
  3. United Airlines (698)
  4. Alaska Airlines (695)
  5. American Airlines (676)
  6. Air Canada (629)

Average score: 701

This year’s business/first class results saw Delta leapfrog JetBlue for the top spot after the Long Island City-based carrier’s Mint product landed the airline the top spot in this category a year ago.

plane seat

Delta continues to place a heavy focus on its premium offerings, noting in numerous recent quarterly reports that revenue growth in its premium cabins has outpaced economy.

Premium economy

Delta also led the way in premium economy satisfaction. Here are the results:

  1. Delta (716)
  2. Alaska (687)
  3. American (684)
  4. JetBlue (667)
  5. WestJet (664)
  6. United (641)
  7. Air Canada (628)

Average score: 675

Premium Select on a Delta A330-300
Premium Select on a Delta A330-300. CLINT HENDERSON/THE POINTS GUY


The rankings for economy include a far longer ­(and different-looking) list. It encompasses both the network carriers and budget airlines — the latter of which don’t have premium cabins.

  1. Southwest (685)
  2. Delta (651)
  3. Allegiant Air (633)
  4. Alaska (630)
  5. JetBlue (630)
  6. American (611)
  7. WestJet (591)
  8. United (585)
  9. Air Canada (542)
  10. Spirit Airlines (507)
  11. Frontier Airlines (472)

Average score: 613

Southwest rebounds

That Southwest took the top spot in the pivotal economy class rankings is noteworthy, considering the evaluation period started just months after its holiday 2022 meltdown.

Southwest poured more than a billion dollars into improving its operational reliability in the wake of that December 2022 chaos. It bolstered winter weather ground equipment and overhauled its technology and internal processes.

southwest wing

Between March 1, 2023, and Feb. 29, 2024, Southwest canceled a mere 0.8% of flights, though close to a quarter were delayed, according to data from FlightAware analyzed by TPG.

The airline also fared far better this past holiday season. Although the airline has hinted at possible future changes to its product offerings, it continues to offer consumer-friendly options like two free checked bags, open seating and no change fees.

Operations, customer service key factors

J.D. Power’s report specifically noted significant investments in staff training and the overall flight experience as major contributing factors for airlines that saw top scores; this is particularly true in the face of record-setting crowds at airports in 2023.

“Airlines that are investing in staff training and recruitment are finding ways to overcome the negative effects of crowded gates and planes simply by being nice to their customers,” Michael Taylor, J.D. Power senior managing director of travel, hospitality, retail and customer service, said in a statement.

Leaders at Delta, for one, have touted its operational reliability of late; this is owed, in part, to the airline’s extensive hiring efforts following the peak of the coronavirus pandemic and staffing challenges two years ago.

“One in three employees at Delta are new just within the last three years,” CEO Ed Bastian noted in March at a Wall Street event.

The Atlanta-based carrier, which was runner-up for the economy rankings and leader in the other two categories, canceled just 0.9% of flights over the past year. It delayed just under 17%, FlightAware data showed.

delta plane

Frontier occupied the last spot among North American carriers in J.D. Power’s survey. Between March 2023 and 2024, the Denver-based, ultra-low-cost carrier canceled 1.4% of flights and delayed nearly 30%, per FlightAware.

For perspective, U.S. airlines collectively canceled 1.3% of flights during that time, per FlightAware; 20.6% of flights were delayed.

Like other budget carriers, Frontier also charges for just about everything beyond the ticket itself, from seat selection to any bags beyond a personal item that fits under the seat — often a tradeoff for low base fares.

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