Great food – the spicier the better – plus good customer service and a positive track record are the primary drivers of passenger satisfaction on international airline flights, according to the JD Power 2019 Airline International Destination Satisfaction Study. In stark contrast to the price-driven culture its US domestic market study from earlier this year, the research shows that cost and fees are notably less important than in-flight services when it comes to delighting passengers on international flights.
The study, based on responses from over 6,200 passengers, measures passenger satisfaction with airlines flying from North America to Europe and from North America to Asia, is based on performance in nine factors (in order of average importance across both models): in-flight services; cost and fees; aircraft; flight crew; check-in; boarding; immigration; baggage; and reservation.
The report identifies that in-flight services – especially food and beverage – are key to passenger satisfaction and alongside in-flight entertainment, are defined as “the primary drivers of passenger satisfaction” among international travellers.
The research highlights that on flights from North America to Europe and Asia, more than half of the overall in-flight passenger experience is dictated by food and beverage. In-flight services are more important to passengers bound for Asia or Europe; whereas passenger satisfaction with long-haul flights within North America is more of a value proposition primarily driven by cost and fees.
But, while the food and beverage factor is key to passenger satisfaction, the report highlights that there is room for improvement. Overall passenger satisfaction with food and beverage offerings is currently lower than that of satisfaction with in-flight entertainment options. On flights to Europe, overall satisfaction with in-flight entertainment is 53 points higher (on a 1,000-point scale) than for food and beverage. On flights to Asia, that gap is 22 points.
Track record also matters when it comes to airline selection, according to the JD Power study: The primary drivers of airline selection among international passengers are past experience with the airline (40%); good customer service (36%); convenient scheduling (35%); reputation (33%); and lower ticket price (31%).
This is very different from its domestic analysis with other variables, which weigh heavily on airline selection among domestic travellers – such as availability of a direct flight, no luggage fees and Wi-Fi access – playing a much less significant role in airline selection among international travellers.
JD Power’s findings ranks Turkish Airlines highest in passenger satisfaction among carriers flying from North America to Europe, with a score of 833. Virgin Atlantic (829) ranks second, while British Airways and Delta Air Lines (815) rank third in a tie.
Among carriers flying from North America to Asia, Japan Airlines ranks highest in passenger satisfaction with a score of 869. Delta Air Lines (861) ranks second and Korean Air (854) ranks third.