“Customer satisfaction with North American airlines climbed to unprecedented highs for all of the wrong reasons during the past two years,” Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power said in the report’s release statement. “Fewer passengers meant more space on airplanes, less waiting in line, and more attention from flight attendants. But that business model was simply not sustainable.”
Now, Taylor says, volumes are surging, some pandemic-era constraints are still in place, and passenger satisfaction declined in all three study segments—first/business, premium economy, and economy/basic economy.
The charts below show how passengers ranked North American carriers by segment, using eight measurement factors: aircraft; baggage; boarding; check-in; cost and fees; flight crew; in-flight services; and reservation.
The overall score was 798 – on a 1,000-point scale – which is down more than 20 points from a year ago.
You’ll see that JetBlue and Alaska Airlines topped the rankings in the First/Business segment; JetBlue and Delta Air Lines finished first in the Premium Economy sector; and that Southwest and JetBlue led in the economy segment.
On Monday a federal judge in Florida struck down the Biden administration’s mandate requiring masks to be worn in airports, on airplanes, trains, buses, and on other forms of public transportation.
The ruling is being reviewed. But late Monday, the Transportation Security Administration issued a statement informing the public that:
“Due to today’s court ruling, effective immediately, TSA will no longer enforce its Security Directives and Emergency Amendment requiring mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs. TSA will also rescind the new Security Directives that were scheduled to take effect tomorrow. CDC continues to recommend that people wear masks in indoor public transportation settings at this time.“
TSA’s announcement was followed by messages from airports and airlines saying they too would no longer enforce the mask mandate.
Here are a couple of airport tweets on the subject. Note the tweet from Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) where masks are still required.
Airlines were pretty quick to declare that they would no longer be requiring passengers to wear masks on board either.
American Airlines, Alaska Airines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, Sun Country, United Airlines and most every other airline issued a statement and/or sent out a social media post.
You may – and maybe should – still wear a mask when you travel
While masks may no longer be required when traveling, it may still be a good idea to wear a mask in busy airports and on airplanes and on public transporation to and from the airport.
Coronavirus infections are on the rise in many communities and you, or someone around you, may be immunocompromised and easily susceptible to the current COVID variant, the flu, or whatever else may be going around.
There are also still a lot of unvaccinated people out there. So wearing a mask is an easy way to protect yourself and those around you.
If you decide to no longer wear a mask when traveling, please be respectful of those who continue to wear them.
Individuals, organizations, and corporations are gathering humanitarian aid for the Ukrainian people fleeing the Russian invasion. Airlines are joining the effort and encouraging travelers to pitch in too.
United Airlines award bonus milies for donations
United Airlines MileagePlus members can donate cash or miles to the airline’s signature relief partners – Airlink, Americares, American Red Cross, and World Central Kitchen – by visiting united.com/UkraineSupport.
United will be matching the first five million miles donated and the first $100,000. To encourage donations, United is also awarding bonus miles to anyone who gives $50 or more.
Donate $50 – $99 and earn 250 bonus miles
Donate $100 – $249 and earn 500 bonus miles
Donate $250 or more and earn 1,000 bonus miles
“The human tragedy we are witnessing in Ukraine is horrifying and has shocked us all so we’re doing our part to quickly help get aid to the people who desperately need relief,” said United President Brett Hart. “Our partners have been on the ground for more than a week and it’s clear they need more resources to fulfill their mission of flying workers and supplies to and from the frontlines of this crisis.”
Throughout March, American Airlines funds collected online and on flights to and from international destinations and Hawaii by flight attendants through American’s partnership with UNICEF’s Change for Good program will go to support UNICEF and its humanitarian response in Ukraine.
The carrier says the funds will help reach vulnerable children and families in Ukraine and provide assistance with basic services including water, sanitization, immunization, and health care, as well as schooling and learning support and emergency cash assistance for up to 7.5 million children.
“It is deeply troubling to see the humanitarian crisis unfolding as a result of the conflict in Ukraine,” said Brady Byrnes, Vice President of Flight Service for American. “Our purpose at American Airlines is to care for people on life’s journey and in order to truly fulfill that purpose, we must step up when it matters most.”
The UNICEF Change for Good program is an alliance between the UNICEF and the international airline industry to convert spare change donated by customers traveling on aircraft into critical services and supplies for vulnerable children around the world.
In addition, all AAdvantage miles donated to American’s Miles for Social Good program during March will be directed to Airlink to help transport physicians and relief workers to Eastern Europe to assist with humanitarian relief in Ukraine. Airlink is a global humanitarian organization delivering critical aid to communities in crisis by providing airlift and logistical solutions to nonprofit partners responding to disasters around the world.
We’ll add more airline efforts to support Ukrainian refugees as we find them.
A heatwave in the Pacific Northwest and some other parts of the country is adding another challenge to air travel as we head into a holiday weekend.
As a result, some airlines, including American Airlines and United Airlines, are offering fee-free travel waivers. And Alaska Airlines has put a ban on pets traveling as cargo to and from more than a dozen cities until at least after the July 4th weekend.
Here are some of the details, and useful links to policies as of Monday evening, June 28:
And while Alaska Airlines isn’t offering change fee waivers as of Monday evening, it is pre-canceling some flights.
“While we never want to let our guests down, only a small fraction of our flights have been pre-canceled and we are doing our best to re-accommodate those guests,” the airline said on its website, “
And, because of the heat, through July 7, Alaska Airlines is not accepting animals for travel in the baggage departments to or from most of the affected airports listed above. Ticketed pets are still permitted to travel in the cabin with their owners.
Waivers offered by American and United Airlines
American Airlines’ change fee waiver offer is in effect for ticketed travelers through June 29 for trips to, through, or from the cities below. The airlines’ website notes that this information was current as of June 25, 2021, so if record-breaking heat continues in these areas, the waiver could be updated or extended. Check the website for details.
[This is a slightly different version of the story we prepared for NBC News]
As the pace of Covid-19 vaccinations is ramping up, so is consumer confidence — and with it, a surge in travel bookings.
“Many travelers are feeling optimistic that they will be able to vacation abroad this year. Many people are already actively planning their next big trip; even for trips more than four months out,” said Shibani Walia, senior research analyst at Tripadvisor.
With a comprehensive vaccine schedule and pent-up demand for leaving home, vacation planning and bookings are on the rise for late 2021, 2022, and beyond.
Spirit Airlines announced Thursday it would start training new pilots and flight attendants as of next month, in preparation for a spike in leisure travel.
“We just got our first shot. So maybe we could plan a trip this summer or later this year,” says Vicky Stein of New York. “I’d love to visit my son in Vancouver, B.C. But that depends on the regulations in Canada. At this point, I’d be happy to go to Vermont.”
A recent Tripadvisor survey found that 80 percent of U.S. consumers planned to take at least one overnight domestic leisure trip in 2021. Just over one-third of respondents planning at least three domestic trips this year. Popular destinations such as Orlando are already seeing a hopeful booking rebound.
“The region expects 2021 spring break travel to mirror the Christmas and New Year holidays, when occupancy reached 50 percent,” said Daryl Cronk, senior director of market research for Visit Orlando. “This would be a significant improvement over last year’s 12 percent, one of the lowest points of the year.”
Tripadvisor’s survey also found a strong interest in international travel planning. Nearly half (47%) of all respondents said they are planning to travel internationally in 2021.
Already, the majority of hotel clicks for trips taking place from May onwards are to international destinations, Tripadvisor noted. “This is an early signal that travelers are feeling increasingly confident they will be able to travel abroad in 2021, at least in the back half of the year.”
Italy, France, Japan, Australia, and Greece are at the top of most travelers’ lists, said Misty Belles, managing director at Virtuoso travel network, citing customer planning.
Cruises may make a comeback
Travelers are also eyeing cruises, a good sign for the many cruise lines that had to abandon entire sailing seasons.
“We’re seeing growing confidence from cruisers as vaccines begin to be distributed,” said Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief at Cruise Critic. “Both because they see it as a step in the right direction for the return of travel, and because they’ll feel most comfortable sailing knowing that they and their fellow passengers have been vaccinated.”
Many cruisers are making their bookings further out.
“Our 136-day 2021-2022 Viking World Cruise sold out more than a year in advance,” says Richard Marnell, Executive Vice President of Marketing for Viking. “And we have had such strong demand for our new Mississippi River cruises that we opened additional dates for sale in 2023 sooner than expected.”
Rich and Suzi McClear of Sitka, Alaska, whose 2020 Holland America Line world cruise was cut short due to the pandemic, are anxious to go back to sea. “We’re rebooked for a 2022 world cruise. We’re also booked for the 2023 world cruise, which we view as an insurance policy in case the 2022 cruise does not go,” they said in an email.
Should you book a trip too?
Most travel companies now have flexible and more generous booking and cancellation policies, and prices are historically low. So, it can be a good time to book future trips.
Airfares, for example, are 20 percent lower compared to last year, said Adit Damodaran, economist for travel app Hopper. “Domestic airfare prices are expected to rise in mid-to-late March and gradually return to 2019 levels over the course of the year. And it is not too early to book for 2022, especially if you’re booking with trip protection or flexible booking options.