Customer Satisfaction Index: Airlines Worse than Fast Food

Some good news and bad news for the airlines in the latest edition of the respected American Customer Satisfaction Index. U.S. carriers are improving, say passengers, with an overall score 3% better than 2012’s ranking. Now if only they could catch up with McDonald’s.

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Airlines: Better than Cable (barely)

Unfortunately, airlines still registered a ranking of just 69 out of 100, which put the industry well below satisfaction levels for Domino’s Pizza, McDonald’s, Taco Bell or even the U.S. Postal Service, health insurance and cell phone service. In fact, airlines as a whole ranked below every other industry with two exceptions: Cable or subscription TV and internet service. It tied for satisfaction levels with social media.

What Passengers Liked and Hated

There is a little more good news to report. Passengers say airlines do a good job of being on-time and they appreciate that it’s easy to make reservations and easy to check-in for a flight. “The airlines should be getting better,” said air travel analyst Rick Seaney, “especially with fewer flights and charging travelers for checking bags.” He added, “After all, that’s the core travel experience – arriving on-time with your luggage.”

What were the airlines worst at? According to the report, the comfort of the seats on today’s airlines is “awful.”

Happier Passengers Avoid Fees

If you were wondering if airline fees matter, they do. Those who avoided the fees gave the airlines a score of 73.¬†Those who have to pay fees (or choose to) were much less satisfied, giving the airlines a score of 65. Said air travel analyst Seaney, “With scores still below some of the ratings for the IRS, the airlines have a ways to go and will continue fighting an uphill battle with consumers who are no fans of the current fee generation.”

Have airlines gone nuts with fees?

Airlines: Winners and Losers

The top scorers included the usual suspects and it’s probably no surprise that top-ranked JetBlue and number two Southwest are the only two carriers that don’t charged for checked-bags. Bringing up the rear is United which has had what our friends in marketing call ‘challenges‘¬†over the past year – in the wake of its merger with Continental. Look for similar challenges ahead for American as it too begins meshing operations with merger partner US Airways.

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Published: June 18, 2013