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Satisfied Air Travelers? It’s a Mixed Bag.


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Delta Air Lines made the biggest leap in customer satisfaction of the nation's airlines.

Delta Air Lines

It’s hard to keep travel customers satisfied. Especially if you are an airline competing for business in today’s resurging travel market. In fact, according to a report released last week from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), airlines rank right near the bottom, with a score of 69 on ACSI’s 100-point scale—right above subscription television, social media, and the IRS.

All is not lost, however, when it comes to airlines. Customers do like some things about airlines; they are pleased with the check-in process and the ease of booking, both of which scored at the top of the survey’s rankings with a score of 82. Travelers have even grown accustomed to airport security. Nearly 88 percent of travelers say they are satisfied or neutral to today’s security measures, according to a report just released from Travel Leaders Group. If airlines could only improve the experience once travelers step aboard.

“Travelers are happy with airlines before they get on the plane,” said David VanAmburg, ACSI managing director, in a press release. “Even areas that might be considered stereotypical customer pain points, like late departures and arrivals and baggage handling, score high these days. The one area that continues to plague airlines is the in-flight experience, which can really sour satisfaction with the airline overall.” Poor in-flight service (rated 67) and lack of seat comfort (63) are two such areas that pull overall scores down.

One bright spot for regional travelers is Delta Air Lines. The airline improved its score the most this year, jumping with a four percent increase to achieve a score of 71. The airline still has a ways to go before it can catch up to Southwest (78), and the highest scoring airline JetBlue (79). One reason Delta has failed to catch up is a perceived struggle with passenger service following a merger, says Claes Fornell, ACSI founder.

After the 2010 merger with Continental, United has struggled with passenger service. It has the lowest score in the industry with a 60. “We’ve seen time and time again the negative impact mergers have on customer satisfaction,” said Fornell in a release. “American Airlines may also see a slump in satisfaction and it combines operations with US Airways. Southwest let the industry for 17 years until it merged with Airtran in 2011, and Delta is just now recovering from its 2008 merger with Northwest.”

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