Southwest, Alaska Airlines, JetBlue lead airlines in customer satisfaction 1

Southwest, Alaska Airlines, JetBlue lead airlines in customer satisfaction

After a year of customer service crises and rising ticket prices, customer satisfaction with airlines drops 2.7 percent year over year to a score of 73 on a scale of 0 to 100, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) 2018 Travel Report. Guest satisfaction with hotels remains steady at an ACSI score of 76, while internet travel services fall 1.3 percent to 78.

Airline customer satisfaction declines

All but four of the largest airlines saw passenger satisfaction decline in the past year. Southwest holds steady at an ACSI score of 80 for the third straight year, likely a reflection of low fares and focus on customer service. It was enough for the airline to reclaim the lead from JetBlue, which falls 4 percent to a score of 79. Alaska Airlines rises 1 percent to tie for second place. Alaska’s merger with Virgin America, which has a legacy of good service, plus lower fares, may have contributed to the rise.

Allegiant had the biggest jump of the year, rising 4 percent to a score of 74. Despite the satisfaction gain and a strong record of profitability, Allegiant may be heading straight into turbulence following recent high-profile news reporting on mechanical issues and safety concerns that sent its stock tumbling.

American and Delta join Allegiant in the middle of the pack, both dropping 3 percent. United falls 4 percent to a score of 67, and Frontier (down 2 percent) and Spirit (up 2 percent) tie for last place with a score of 62.

“The 18-point gap between first place and last place among airlines is fairly typical,” said David VanAmburg, Managing Director at ACSI. “Customer satisfaction is going to be lower for the ultra-low-cost carriers, which are focused more on price than quality, and the scores reflect that. The same holds true among hotels. As costs rise and seats shrink, a focus on customer service and loyalty will set some airlines apart.”

With the exception of the airline check-in process, which remains at 82, every aspect of flying deteriorated in 2018 compared with the prior year. This includes making reservations (81), flight crew courtesy (80), and baggage handling (79). According to passengers, leg room is not improving, and while seat comfort was already the low point of travel, it worsened more than any other element this year, dropping 3 percent to 69.

The ACSI Travel Report 2018 is based on 12,172 customer surveys collected between April 18, 2017 and March 18, 2018.

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