J.D. Power North American airline study says traditional airlines suck

J.D. Power released the results of their yearly airline satisfaction survey, and the results paint a pretty bleak picture of the traditional carriers. Eight of these legacy carriers were reviewed on 8 different aspects of their service:

Overall satisfaction, reservation experience, check-in experience, boarding/deplaning/baggage experience, aircraft experience, flight crew experience, in-flight services and costs/fees experience.

Of the eight traditional carriers, Alaska Airlines took the top spot, followed by Continental Airlines. Alaska did such a good job this year, that they scored 5/5 in 6 of the 8 categories. This fantastic result means they take home the J.D. Powers award for 2009 airline satisfaction.

United Airlines and US Airways scored “about average” in just one category (in-flight services). In every other category, they scored just 2 points, which is also the lowest possible score. This is a pretty dismal score, and one that shows that United and US are in a serious mess.

Of the low cost carriers, Jet Blue took the prize, though their contest was a very close match between fellow low cost carriers Southwest Airlines and WestJet.

AirTran and Frontier scored mostly 2 pointers in each category, with Frontier managing to snag 2 3-pointers in in-flight experience and aircraft experience.

Bottom line is that the traditional carriers are in a boatload of trouble. As they keep chipping away at their services, and adding more fee based amenities, the low cost carriers have mastered the art of keeping passengers happy.

When you look at the in-flight services, airlines like JetBlue and Southwest outrank even the largest of the legacy carriers, and it has to be quite embarrassing for an airline like United to see the cheap airlines beat them in so many categories.