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Airline satisfaction grows as travelers accept extra fees as their fate

Airlines are generally something that we can all complain about together. But according to a new study, Americans are more satisfied with air travel than ever before.

Despite the constant news about flight delays, cramped seats, scary turbulence and in-flight confrontations, the North American Airline Satisfaction Study from J.D. Power found that customer satisfaction is at a 10-year high.

One reason customers are so happy is because fares are lower than they’ve been in a long time. Thanks to lower jet fuel prices, the airfare prediction app Hopper reports that advanced-purchase tickets cost 20% less that two years ago, and fares this summer are expected to reach a seven-year low. The  average price of an airline ticket in the U.S. dropped to $363 in the fourth quarter of 2015. According to the Department of Transportation, that's the lowest it's been since 2010.

The J.D. Power study also attributed overall higher satisfaction with air travel to the simple fact that we’ve gotten used to all those extra fees. Passengers are just resigned to the fact that they have to pay for booking, baggage, seat, and in-flight food fees that they no longer view paying them as a negative thing – it’s just part of travel. (By the way, U.S. airlines collected $3.8 billion in baggage fees alone in 2015.)

One group that does have a problem with baggage fees: the U.S. Senate. On Thursday, a handful of lawmakers asked major airlines to do away with baggage fees, especially during the busy summer travel months. They predict that without fees, more passengers will check bags, and security lines will move faster. The airline industry doesn’t agree, saying that if they remove fees, then fares might increase.

Outside of finances, J.D. Power reports that features like entertainment options, Wi-Fi, and power plugs have also contributed to overall satisfaction. Rick Garlick, global travel and hospitality practice lead at J.D. Power, says airlines realize how important the customer experience truly is. “Airlines are making positive strides by adding value to its products and services with newer and cleaner planes, better in-flight services, improving on-time arrivals and bumping fewer passengers from their flights,” Garlick says.

When it comes to specific airlines, Alaska Airlines (ALK) dominates the competition. For the ninth consecutive year, the regional airline has ranked highest among traditional carriers with an index score of 751 out of 1,000. Delta (DAL) came in second with a score of 725.

For low-cost carriers, JetBlue (JBLU) topped the charts for the 11th consecutive year with a score of 790 out of 1000. This is the 12th time the airline has performed the highest in the study. Southwest came in right behind JetBlue with a score of 789.

And this isn’t the only study confirming that passengers are in-like with airlines. In April the Airline Quality Rating (AQR) released its report about airline performance and the results reflected the same message. Overall, the airline industry AQR score improved in 2015 showing that on-time arrival percentages had increased and the number of mishandled baggage had fallen.

With that said, customer complaints rose by 37%, proving that travelers will continue to have high standards with it comes to air travel.

Are you satisfied with air travel? Email us at yfmoneymailbag@yahoo.com.