Airlines Lag Behind IRS in Customer Satisfaction

Which ranks lowest in satisfaction levels among U.S. consumers? A.) Airlines; B.) McDonald’s; C.) U.S. Postal Service; D.) Electronic IRS filers.

If you answered anything but A.), chances are you haven’t flown much lately.

Airlines’ Satisfaction Score: 67 out of 100

Out of a possible score of 100, the airlines overall earned a dismal 67 from the respected American Customer Satisfaction Index. The post office scored 75 and fast-food chain McDonald’s garnered a 73. Other scores include Federal Express with 82, Outback Steakhouse with 81 and Hilton hotels with 80.

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IRS Ranks Higher in Satisfaction than Airlines

Airlines don’t even approach the satisfaction levels for those who file electronically with the Internal Revenue Service. Those taxpayers gave the IRS a score of 78 according to the ACSI’s most recent figures – although paper filers ranked the IRS lower than airlines. Plus, there was  a few other bright spots for airlines amidst the relatively dismal scores.

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Best Airline: JetBlue over Southwest

Topping the list for the first time was JetBlue, which beat out previous leader Southwest. The latter dropped 5 percent in overall customer satisfaction. According to ACSI analysts, Southwest’s acquisition of AirTran may be at the heart this down-turn: “Airline mergers tend to create significant passenger dissatisfaction in the short term as operations are combined and consolidated,” said Claes Fornell, founder of ACSI. That appears to be the case with Delta which merged with Northwest a few years back – although its current score is still relatively low, it’s up 16 percent over 2011 when it ranked dead last.

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2012 Airline Scores

Here are the latest figures as of June 2012:

  • JetBlue – 81
  • Southwest – 77
  • All Others* – 74
  • Delta – 65
  • US Airways – 65
  • American – 64
  • United – 62

*These include smaller airlines such as Spirit and Allegiant.

For the past 16 years, the ACSI has been conducting regular evaluations into customer satisfaction levels on everything from government institutions to retail companies for a variety of uses including indicators of potential financial success.


Published: June 19, 2012