Which US Airlines Are Currently Top in Their Cabin Classes?

frontal view of a jet aircraft landing.
Image Credit: Erik Nikolai Halsteinrud via Pixabay

Busy skies and rising ticket prices are the new normal in domestic air travel, according to recent data.

A whopping 9.4% year-on-year increase in passengers has airlines scrambling to keep customers satisfied. The good news? A new study by J.D. Power reveals a surprising silver lining.

The J.D. Power 2024 North America Airline Satisfaction Study shows that investing in staff training and creating a positive in-flight experience can dramatically improve customer satisfaction, even amidst crowded conditions.

“While there are factors beyond an airline’s control,” says Michael Taylor, senior managing director of travel, hospitality, retail and customer service at J.D. Power.

“The positive impact airline staff can have on passengers is undeniable. This year’s study highlights the power of friendly and attentive service to overcome challenges like crowded airplanes.”

Passengers at an airport departure lounge.
Photo Credit: Magic K via Pexels

Key Takeaways from the 2024 Study:

  • Smooth Flights, Happy Customers: Despite high airfares, passenger satisfaction prioritizes ease of travel and trust over price. A seamless flight experience trumps concerns about value for money.
  • Media Matters: Negative media coverage significantly impacts trust scores. Airlines with bad press see a 400-point drop (on a 1000-point scale) in customer satisfaction compared to those with positive media portrayals.
  • People Power: Top performers, Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines, prioritized investment in their staff. This focus translates to higher satisfaction scores in areas influenced by interpersonal interactions.

Who’s Winning? Airline Rankings

The study segmented airlines based on cabin class, revealing the following leaders:

  • First/Business Class: Delta Air Lines (743) takes the top spot, followed by JetBlue Airways (736).
  • Premium Economy: Delta Air Lines reigns supreme for the second year (716), with Alaska Airlines (687) and American Airlines (684) following closely.
Close-up of the fuselage of a parked Delta Air Lines aircraft.
Photo Credit: Delta Air Lines

Delta takes the crown for first-class and premium economy fliers in the J.D. Power study. Passengers commend their attentive staff, comfortable cabins, and in-flight entertainment options. Delta consistently ranks high for on-time performance, another plus for customer satisfaction.

  • Economy/Basic Economy: Southwest Airlines continues its three-year dominance (685), with Delta Air Lines (651) and Allegiant Air (633) rounding out the top three.

For three years running, Southwest Airlines reigns supreme in the economy and basic economy category according to the study.

A Southwest Airlines aircraft carriers the 'Adopt A Pilot' logo.
Photo Credit: Southwest Airlines

Passengers rave about their friendly staff, relaxed boarding process, and free checked bags (a rarity these days).

While some might miss the assigned seating, Southwest’s focus on a positive experience seems to win over flyers.


The redesigned 2024 J.D. Power North America Airline Satisfaction Study measures passenger satisfaction across seven core areas, each rated on a 6-point scale (poor to perfect).

These dimensions include airline staff, digital tools, ease of travel, trust, on-board experience, pre/post-flight experience, and value for price paid.

The study segments airlines into three classes (first/business, premium economy, and economy/basic economy) and is based on responses from 9,582 passengers who flew on major North American airlines within the previous month (March 2023 – March 2024).


It’s important to remember that rankings are just a starting point, not the gospel. Here are some additional factors to consider when choosing an airline:

  • Route Network: Does the carrier fly to your destination and on the days you need?
  • Price: While customer service is important, for some travellers it can’t compete with a rock-bottom fare if budget is your absolute top priority.
  • Amenities: Do you value free checked bags, seatback entertainment, or priority boarding? Choose an airline that best aligns with your needs.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 4 Min Read
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