Americans are happier with their flying experience than they have been in more than 20 years, according to a new survey — but that certainly doesn’t mean they’re happy with every airline.
Thanks to record profits, driven in part by lower fuel costs, airlines have been able to invest more in the in-flight experience, which has resulted in happier passengers, according to the new American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Travel Report 2016. In fact, airline satisfaction is up 4.3% to 72 on the ACSI’s 100-point scale — the highest it’s been since 1994.
Worst airline for customer satisfaction
Spirit Airlines earned a 62 (out of 100) on this year’s survey — and while that’s a 15% improvement from last year, it wasn’t good enough to move the low-cost airline out of last place.
Spirit ‘made big gains this year mostly because of price,” said David VanAmburg, managing director at ACSI. “They don’t spend the money on customer service.”
The way Spirit works is very different from most airlines. While it offers super discounted fares, passengers have to pay for everything else — from seat reservations to water during the flight. The company says it does things this way in order to give consumers a choice in what they pay for.
‘Worst’ could mean best for some travelers…
Although Spirit ranked last in the survey, many travelers are looking for more low-cost options — which is why Spirit has been moving up in the rankings.
“Price continues to be a primary driver for choosing an airline for the leisure traveler,” said VanAmburg. “Ultra-low-cost carriers have the biggest jumps in passenger satisfaction this year as perceived value increases, but they still remain at the bottom of the Index. Their business model can disappoint new customers who are surprised by charges for everything from bags to snacks to seat reservations.”
Read more: The #1 rule of cheap travel
Best airlines for customer satisfaction
JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines took the top spots — both with scores of 80 (out of 100). Alaska Airlines took second place with a score of 77.
Other scores across the industry:
- American Airlines: 72
- United Airlines: 68
- Frontier Airlines: 66
According to the survey, both American and United saw big improvements after reinstating free snacks and increasing access to in-flight entertainment options.
Read more: 7 things to avoid touching on a plane