Air Travelers Embrace the Pain

In every way, the experience of flying is getting worse for U.S. air passengers. Yet, inexplicably, U.S. government data and surveys of U.S. air passengers suggest that Americans have never been more satisfied with their airlines.
Passengers no longer expect much comfort in the skies. Photographer: Paul Thomas/Bloomberg

Airfares are rising, legroom is decreasing, and fees -- from baggage to meals -- are proliferating. In every way, the experience of flying is getting worse for U.S. air passengers. Yet, inexplicably, U.S. government data and surveys of U.S. air passengers suggest that Americans have never been more satisfied with their airlines. For example, last week J.D. Powers and Associates issued its 2014 North America Airline Satisfaction Study, claiming that -- based on a survey of 11,340 passengers -- "overall passenger satisfaction with airlines is at a record high." Likewise, in April, researchers at Wichita State and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical universities issued their annual national Airline Quality Rating, which ranks airline performance based on Department of Transportation data (including passenger complaints), showing that the 2013 airline score "was the best industry score for all of the 23-year history of the Airline Quality Rating."

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