Full fare airlines fail in customer satisfaction index


Full fare airlines were ranked poorly in customer service in the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), with one particular airline receiving the lowest score of any in recent memory.

The ACSI, which comes out monthly from the University of Michigan, has been doing its survey for 16 years and counting. I find that their thorough methodology makes their data very useful.

Unfortunately, the airline industry’s customer service performance has been positively abysmal in this latest tally. The airlines now have the lowest scores of any industry out there, even below cable. That’s saying something, isn’t it?

If a score of 70 is passing, Delta scored a 56 — the lowest number any airline has ever received, save for Northwest in 1999. Delta is far and away the worst airline for customer satisfaction, according to the ACSI. Right now, there are a host of managerial and operational problems pulling the airline down.

Meanwhile, other full fares like United and US Air tied with a 61, while American got a 63.

The discount airlines did much better. Overall, they got a 76. Southwest, in particular, got a score of 81, the highest any airline has ever gotten in 16 years.

Southwest is making people happy again and again. The company did go through a quick managerial succession that looked troubling, but now things seem to have stabilized under the leadership of Gary Kelly.

Delta, by contrast, is still floundering after its merger with Northwest. Some of that is to be expected after any merger. I think you can expect significant improvements at Delta over the next year or two as the remaining issues with the merger get ironed out.

And now that Southwest has bought AirTran, I think it will be interesting to see if they have a decline in customer service. Southwest has to deal with absorbing a large player that has a completely different operating philosophy and business model than its own.

In happier parts of the travel industry, hotel numbers are great. The highest rated chain is Hilton, followed by Marriott, the various Starwood brands and Hyatt.


When it comes to fast food, the biggest improvement in scores over the last year went to McDonald’s. But even so, the Golden Arches are still in last place. Wendy’s is the king of customer satisfaction, according to the ACSI, even though they don’t do as well financially as McDonald’s.

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