Survey Reveals the Most Unreliable Airline in North America

A recent survey of airline passengers reveals the most unreliable airline in North America. According to the airline satisfaction survey by J.D. Power, airline passengers say their level of satisfaction is higher than pre-COVID-19 years, even though the North America airline industry lost over $40 billion in revenue when passenger volume dropped 60% in 2020.

Table of Contents

Pinterest graphic of airline passengers walk in concourse with text over it reading "Most Unreliable Airline in North America"

Key findings of the 2021 Airline Satisfaction Study

Key findings of the 2021 J.D. Power airline satisfaction study include:

Flight crews stepped up during pandemic

Overall passenger satisfaction with flight crews increased 25 points as flight attendants and pilots had to explain and enforce many new health and safety measures during the pandemic. In addition, this year’s highest-ranked airline, Delta, scored particularly well on the flight crew factor, outperforming its closest competitor by 11 points. “All told, Delta was the top performer in four of the eight factors evaluated in the study,” explains a spokesperson for the survey in a press release.

Removal of change fees scores points with passengers

Passengers responded favorably to the introduction of travel waivers during the pandemic that allowed passengers to change or cancel tickets without typical penalties. That drove a 48-point increase in customer satisfaction with cost and fees.

Response to COVID-19 signaled airline concern for passengers

“All North America airlines earned generally high marks from passengers when they were asked to rate their airline’s response to COVID-19,” says the J.D. Power spokesperson. The positive sentiment was reinforced by

  • Additional safety measures, such as keeping middle seats empty,
  • enforcement of mask requirements and
  • allowing worried travelers to alter their itineraries.

Most Unreliable Airline in North America?

bar graph of airline ranked in order of reliability: Delta at top and Air Canada at bottom as most unreliable airline in North America
Airlines ranked by reliability reported by passengers in the 2021 airline satisfaction survey published by J.D. Power

The study found that Delta is the most reliable airline while Air Canada is the most unreliable airline in North America. That doesn’t surprise me at all. I had awful experiences with Air Canada when I flew to write about Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec, Canada. Read about my adventures in the Quebec wilderness.

On the other hand, I find Delta employees always willing to go the extra mile. So I try to book Delta whenever I fly to Milwaukee or Green Bay to research the Wisconsin Way.

Disclaimer: since only American and United serve my home airport of Flagstaff, I fly with American more often than not.

What is YOUR Level of Satisfaction?

white airplane with red maple leaf on tail - flying in blue sky
Photo by Renato Spilimbergo Carvalho via Wikimedia Commons

What has your experience been on these airlines? Which one is your favorite? Leave your response in the comment box below:

three beautiful trophys in gold, black and white that say "JD Power" and "Customer Satisfaction" "The Voice of the Customer."

About J.D. Power

J.D. Power is a global leader in consumer insights, advisory services and data and analytics. A pioneer in the use of big data, artificial intelligence (A.I.) and algorithmic modeling capabilities to understand consumer behavior, J.D. Power has been delivering incisive industry intelligence on customer interactions with brands and products for more than 50 years.

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4 thoughts on “Survey Reveals the Most Unreliable Airline in North America”

  1. Our favorite airline for a long time was Alaska Airlines. Now, most of our travels are with Southwest Airlines. My last flight to Puerto Rico, was with Jet Blue and due to family members with covid, I canceled my trip. I was happily surprised that there was no extra charges!

  2. I think a lot depends on from where one is flying. We live in CT and our US flights are focused on Indianapolis. (Home is where the heart is) The simplest way to put it is: basically you can’t get there from here.
    My husband was trying to book a flight for Christmas Day. The only direct fare was from nearby White Plains Airport on American Airlines. The fare was $565 RT/ one adult. He booked on line and immediately remembered that he had a voucher for $265. So he called and spoke with a Rep. While he was explaining, he wanted to cancel the original flight ( which was booked less than 1/2 hour ago), rebook and apply the voucher, the fare dropped to $500. The Rep. argued that he could only apply the voucher to the original amount of the ticket !! After a lengthly discussion, he has a ticket on American Airlines, for the reduced rate of $235 RT. It will be on Christmas Day and on the usual small regional aircraft. The flight takes about 2 + hours. It’s no frills, no service, and carries a small amount of passengers. BUT… it get him to Indianapolis and back.

    • You are so right, Karen! Thanks for your comment. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and come back here to tell us how the Christmas flight went…


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