This US Airline Is Known For Having The Best Customer Service

An anticipated trip to a faraway destination can turn into a nightmare if you run into trouble with your airline. What if they lose your luggage and refuse to help, or what should you do if you're bumped off your flight due to overbooking? Unfortunately, these and other issues have become more common since the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there was a staggering 55% increase in airline customer complaints between 2021 and 2022. By 2023, complaints were on track to reach even higher numbers, according to a December 2023 report by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund.

Good customer service is perhaps more crucial — and more rare — than ever in the air travel industry, and some airlines are hitting the mark better than others. In 2023, J.D. Power ranked North American airlines based on customer satisfaction and found that Southwest Airlines ranked highest in the "economy/basic economy" category for the second year in a row.

Companies in the J.D. Power study were ranked using a passenger satisfaction survey that looked at baggage allowances, boarding experience, cost and fees, flight attendant service, and other factors. In the basic economy segment, Southwest earned 827 customer satisfaction points out of 1,000, beating out other major carriers, including Delta Airlines in second place and JetBlue in third place.

Southwest is known for its customer-friendly perks

Southwest Airlines is known to have the best customer service for a reason. The carrier often goes against industry norms for the sake of customer experience. Since 2022, Southwest has been upgrading its inflight Wi-Fi, adding more seat power outlets, and outfitting cabins with larger overhead bins. The airline is also known for its "Bags Fly Free" policy, where up to two checked bags are allowed per passenger at no additional cost. There's also a one-of-a-kind open seating boarding process found on Southwest flights, where passengers are free to sit wherever they want without having to reserve or pay for the spot ahead of time. On top of all those perks, the carrier implemented a new rule in 2022 that flight credits would no longer expire, giving customers more freedom to choose when they travel.

Southwest's customer service and benefits exceed those found at many other companies, but that doesn't mean it's perfect. In December 2022, Southwest canceled a whopping 70% of its flights during Winter Storm Elliott, triggering the Department of Transportation to issue a hefty $140 million fine. That month, over half of the customer complaints sent to the department were regarding Southwest.

Delta and other airlines also earn high marks

Southwest may offer top-notch customer service when it comes to basic economy seats, but a few other airlines performed better in J.D. Power's premium economy and first/business class rankings. In the premium economy list, Delta took the top spot, followed by JetBlue in second place and Alaska Airlines in third place. In business and first class, JetBlue performed best based on customer satisfaction, with Delta and United trailing closely behind.

Additional studies have highlighted other air carriers based on customer service and overall experience. The American Customer Satisfaction Index placed Alaska Airlines in first place in its 2022-2023 travel study based on customer interviews. In the study, American Airlines and Southwest tied for second place. A 2020-2021 Upgraded Points report found different results, with Endeavor Air (a regional carrier owned by Delta) coming in first place in its customer service rankings, followed by Delta and SkyWest.

Despite these different rankings, you're likely to get top-notch customer service and lots of unique perks if you choose to fly Southwest.