Image: mohamed_hassan via Pixabay

According to a new report from consumer insights firm J.D. Power, passengers flying overseas from North America say good food, great customer service and a positive track record have a greater impact on their decision-making process than ticket cost.

Low fares don’t necessarily result in happy customers – not for international flights, at least. At 31%, flight cost falls behind past experience (40%), good customer service (36%), convenient scheduling (35%) and reputation (33%) in terms of factors that influence international travelers’ airline selection.

The 2019 Airline International Destination Satisfaction Study collected responses from 6,287 passengers between September and October 2019 to determine satisfaction with airlines flying between North American and Europe, as well as between North America and Asia. It rates the airlines based on nine criteria: in-flight services, cost and fees, aircraft, flight crew, check-in, boarding, immigration, baggage and reservation.

Services, in particular food and beverage, and in-flight entertainment (IFE), are major factors in a customer’s choice of airline. However, there is still room for improvement: passengers ranked catering below IFE by 5.3 cent for European flights, and 2.2 per cent for Asian ones.

Of the carriers reviewed in the inquiry, Turkish Airlines ranked highest in the Europe category, followed closely by Virgin Atlantic in second place and British Airways and Delta Air Lines, which tied for third. Japan Airlines, Delta and Korean Air claimed the top spots for flights between North America and Asia.

“A low fare may be the best way to attract a first-time international passenger,” said Michael Taylor, Travel Intelligence Lead at J.D. Power in a press release, “but retaining passengers on routes to Europe and Asia is all about delighting customers with great in-flight experiences.”

Where cost does trump service is on long-haul flights within North America, where variables like luggage fees, Wi-Fi access and direct flight availability, play a much more important role in both passenger satisfaction and airline selection.