We Actually Hate Airlines Less Today Than 20 Years Ago

Greg Keraghosian
·Associate Travel Editor

The airline industry can smile a little more this year. (Photo: Thinkstock)

Consider this the airline industry’s rallying cry based on a new customer satisfaction report: “Hurray, people hate us less!”

For all the daily grief airlines get from customers – and it’s often warranted – it pays to take a step back and analyze satisfaction over a year-long period. That’s exactly what the American Customer Satisfaction Index does, and its 2015 travel report, released today, shows that airline satisfaction is at its highest level since 1994.

The index rates industries and companies on a scale of 0 to 100, and this year airline satisfaction rose from 69 in 2014 to 71. That’s the first time airlines have even cracked 70 since ’94.

Before they start passing out single-serving gin to celebrate, airlines are still in the ACSI’s bottom four industries for satisfaction, above only Internet service providers, subscription television, and health insurance.

“Airlines are doing a better job of getting travelers to their destinations on time, with less frustration over baggage,” ACSI Director David VanAmburg said in a prepared statement. “ACSI findings show that timeliness and baggage handling have improved, which is in line with Department of Transportation data on reductions in both flight delays and baggage mishandling over the past year.”

A breakdown of what passengers liked most and least. (Image: ACSI)

The less-maligned hotel industry scored at 75, same as the year before. Hilton, Marriott, and Hyatt had a three-way tie as the top-scoring chain, earning an 80. The worst-scoring company by far was the budget chain Motel 6, with a 63. Wyndham was second worst with a 68.

“The hotels that fail to offer guests an experience in keeping with their price points are in the weakest position with regard to their market segments,” said Claes Fornell, ACSI Chairman and founder. “Customers expect to get what they pay for, which spells trouble for upscale properties with lower scores.”

Southwest Airlines, which recently got top marks in a frequent-flier passenger survey by Airfarewatchdog, was also the top-scoring airline according to ASCI, with an 81. Alaska Airlines was second place with a 78, and bringing up the rear were budget airlines Frontier (58) and Spirit (54). United (60) was the lowest-scoring major airline.

(Image: ACSI)

Breaking down the data further, the report found that passengers were most satisfied with the ease of booking and checking in for flights, regardless of whether they were on business or personal travel. Fliers’ least favorite part of traveling was seat comfort, which had a satisfaction score of 65.

Related:  Survey: More People are Flying, and They Want More Legroom

Hotel customers also gave the highest ratings to the ease of booking. They gave the lowest scores to the quality of food.

ASCI also evaluated satisfaction among online travel agencies, and they performed strong as a whole with a score of 77. There wasn’t much satisfaction variance among Orbitz (77), Expedia (76),  Priceline (75), Travelocity (74), and the rest of the field (78).

The ASCI compiles its data based on interviews with about 70,000 customers every year.

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