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Consumer Reports Rates the Airlines

I'm a long-time fan of Consumer Reports. When it comes to evaluating consumer products and services, they are as rigorous and objective as it's possible to be. They don't accept advertising or other forms of corporate support, so there's never a sense that their studies are being influenced by financial considerations.

I don't always agree with their methodology or their conclusions, but I always take their findings seriously.

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The company's July issue includes a survey of U.S. airlines, including a ranking of the best (Virgin America) and worst (Spirit).

The results reflect input from 16,663 Consumer Reports subscribers, and include their ratings of five factors: check-in ease, inflight service, cabin cleanliness, baggage handling, seating comfort, and inflight entertainment.

The overall results.

1. Virgin America
2. Southwest
3. JetBlue
4. Hawaiian
5. Alaska
6. Frontier
7. Delta
8. US Airways
9. American
10. United
11. Spirit

The fact that the low-cost carriers, not including Spirit, handily trumped the full-service airlines suggests that travelers' satisfaction is largely influenced by expectations. In other words, with lower fares come lower expectations; and with lower expectations come higher degrees of satisfaction with the same levels of service.

Spirit, on the other hand, managed to underperform even the low expectations consumers have come to expect from the airline that touts its bare-bones approach to service.

Reader Reality Check

Are the Consumer Reports findings consistent with your own assessments of U.S. airlines?

This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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