In the age of checked-bag fees, nut-less flights, and cattle class, a new survey reveals Americans to be increasingly satisfied with the air travel experience.
According to the latest J.D. Power and Associates survey, ten of the 12 North American carriers ranked in the survey saw their scores improve this year, helping to lift the overall average score by 15 points to a three-year high of 673 on a scale of 1,000.
How can this be?
It is due primarily to a closing of the Expectation Gap.
For decades, passengers have mistakenly viewed the air travel experience like shopping at Nordstrom's; whereas the reality was much more like going to Wal-Mart.
Starting in the early 90's, the major carriers, in the face of the success of low-cost airlines, began to change their business models to more a cost-driven one (remember the curmudgeon Robert Crandall at American who demanded a count of the olives used in drinks).
Further, as the Internet evolved and empowered passengers to shop for their tickets, the airlines realized what most people really wanted was a cheap seat.
And, they got it.
Think about how much an economy class ticket cost from New York to LA cost twenty-five years ago: in present-day dollars around $1,200. Today, you can go for less than $600. Sometimes much less.
Still, until recently, while passengers were paying exponentially less and less for tickets, they still expected an upscale experience.
What they were actually getting was a standardized, commoditized experience that was increasingly volume driven.
In other words, most passengers were AND are little more than ballast.
It seems, finally, that passengers are now aware of this shift in the marketplace and have adjusted their expectations accordingly.