3 discount airlines ranked as top favorites for customer satisfaction

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The summer travel season is almost here and you’re probably scouring the web looking for the best airfares.

But before you book that great deal you just found, make sure the airline you’re planning to fly has a good reputation!

Read more: How to get a $5 rental car

3 discount airlines win in this new tally

Overall satisfaction with the airline industry is up 4.2% versus a year ago, according to the latest results of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).

That’s likely thanks to lower ticket prices more than anything else — because we know customer service has been severely lacking over the last couple months!

We’re all scarred after seeing the violent removal of a passenger from United Airlines Flight 3411. Yet the widespread backlash against United that followed the debacle is not reflected in the ACSI results this year.

Why not? Simply because the ACSI folks stopped interviewing passengers one month before the April incident went down.

This year, the ACSI surveyed 8,660 customers between April 18, 2016 and March 19, 2017 for their opinions of the airlines.

What follows are some numerical values on a scale of zero to 100 that indicate who’s the best and the worst in the industry from a customer perspective.

Best airlines for customer satisfaction

JetBlue (82), Southwest Airlines (80) and Alaska Airlines (78) are win, place and show this year in the top three spots. 

The ACSI cites JetBlue’s low costs and cabin upgrades as winning factors. Southwest, meanwhile, is a longtime favorite because of its baggage policies and lack of change fees if you need to modify your ticket.

Rounding out the Top 5 are American and Delta, which both scored 76.

Satisfaction with price and investments in new aircraft helped Delta’s standing. Their widespread problems with cancellations didn’t skew the results here simply because they took place after the March 2017 cutoff date.

Worst airlines for customer satisfaction

So now that you know who is tops, the question is: Who flopped?

Among the Big 3 full-fare carriers, United got the lowest score — checking in with a 70. No surprise there!

But they weren’t the lowest. That dishonor goes to Spirit, which scored a 61.

Customer dissatisfaction with Spirit is nothing new. The airline recently shrunk the size of the free carry-on bag you’re permitted to bring aboard one of their flights. And let’s not forget about the never-ending litany of add-on fees that go hand in hand with flying one of their planes!

Meanwhile, other carriers who stunk it up include Allegiant (71) and Frontier (63).

Conclusion

If there’s an overarching theme to the ACSI’s results, it’s this: Discount airlines like JetBlue, Southwest and Alaska beat the pants off the full-fare guys like American, Delta and United.

It just goes to show that you don’t always get what you pay for! If you want a great flight, your best bet may be to stick with the discounters when possible.

So choose wisely before you book. Happy flying this summer!

Read more: 10 people you should never forget to tip while traveling

Clark’s take on United Airlines

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Theo Thimou About the author: Theo Thimou
Theo is director of content for clark.com. He has co-written 2 books with Clark Howard, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Clark Howard's Living Large in Lean Times.
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