10 Surprising Things People Prefer to Airlines

Sometimes, you just have to feel for the airline industry. When the IRS scores higher in customer satisfaction than U.S. carriers, you know you’ve got an image problem.

Airlines vs. IRS

In fairness, the Internal Revenue Service only scored higher for electronic filing; the old-fashioned paper method of filing did a lot worse than the airlines. But that was an exception. Let’s see what other unusual businesses and government agencies made their customers happier than airline passengers.

How Airlines Ranked

The statistics that follow are based on the annual and highly-regarded American Customer Satisfaction Index which has been publishing the results of its scientific surveys since 1994. Out of a perfect 100, airlines as a group scored 69. Some carriers did better including JetBlue (83) and Southwest (81); the lowest scores were earned by United (62), US Airways (64) and American (65). See all satisfaction survey results here.

10 Surprising Things Customers Prefer to Airlines

Which industries, entities or products beat the airlines? Short answer: Almost all of them. Some highlights.

  1. Automobiles: Americans like cars, and they don’t seem to care what kind because all the brands provided more satisfaction than the airlines overall. Mercedes blew past all others (and all airlines) with a score of 88 but at least Southwest (81) can take comfort in nosing out Chevrolet and Dodge (tied at 79). Which reminds me: Didn’t the Jetsons say we’d have flying cars by now?
  2. Beer: OK, not much of a surprise here. A cold, refreshing brewski versus a cramped seat in flying sardine can isn’t much of a contest. Overall, breweries scored 81, as did Anheuser-Busch individually and I’m sure that viral Super Bowl ad of a young puppy’s love for his Clydesdale didn’t hurt. It sure beats viral videos of passengers going crazy on planes, like the recent Bridezilla on Ryanair who appeared to initiate a mid-air slugfest.
  3. Big-box discounters: Home Depot (79), Best Buy (77) and even Wal-Mart (71) beat the airlines and so did the Spirit Airlines of retail deals, Dollar General (80). The lesson here may be that while people like to save money, don’t force them to  purchase a drink of water like at least one airline does (Spirit, 72).
  4. Chocolate: Hershey, 86; Mars, 84; Nestle, 83. In other words, JetBlue (83) ties with a Crunch bar. Sadly, candy is not available on JetBlue flights, but you can get a cookie (if you pay for it).
  5. Clorox: The people that bring you bleach and other fine products outscored the airlines by a rather massive 16 points. After analyzing this data, I can only conclude that perhaps we Americans support cleanliness? After seeing the condition of some aircraft on final flights of the day, some of that grunge may factor in the airlines’ rather dismal score of 69.
  6. Fast food: Who wouldn’t welcome a Big Mac on their tray table? OK, maybe not if you’re having trouble buckling your seat belt, but McDonald’s did score a tidy 73. That, however, pales in comparison to Subway’s 83. But there will be no Big Mac or Whopper or anything like that at your seat unless you stop on the way to the airport. You will, however, get a free pack of mini-pretzels.
  7. Mascara emporiums: Many women, it seems, consider Rite Aid and CVS their go-to stores for inexpensive make-up essentials and it must be satisfying since both big-box drugstores outpaced the airlines. Suggestion to the air travel industry: Put SkyMall outlets on every plane and just think of all the Garden Yetis you’ll sell.
  8. Underwear:  Whether it’s boxers or briefs, customer are happy with their Hanes brand underwear (81). Now this would be a tricky area for the airlines to try to compete in, but Air New Zealand may have come close with its recent inflight safety-demo video featuring Sports Illustrated swim suit models.
  9. U.S. Department of Defense: This is one area were the government shined, earning a score of 75. However, government as a whole scored a less-than-stellar 66 which was lower than the airlines. Bringing it down was the Treasury Department (58) and we all know what’s part of Treasury: The IRS.
  10. Vacuums: Electrolux had the lowest score among appliances (78) but that still beat the airlines. Maybe carriers could improve by making a clean sweep of fees but not only is that a ridiculous segue, it’ll never happen in a gazillion years.

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Published: April 28, 2014