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Survey Confirms That Coach Seating Sucks

Consumer Reports is in the business of rating and ranking everything, from refrigerators to running shoes. In a shift from its normal product-review routine, where the publication’s in-house experts do the testing and comparisons, Consumer Reports turned to its readers for a review of U.S. airlines.

The publication queried 55,000 travelers on a range of factors, including service, legroom, seating comfort, pricing transparency, Wi-Fi connectivity, and cabin cleanliness, and ranked the 11 U.S. airlines accordingly. To keep it apples-to-apples, the results for coach were kept separate from the results for first and business.

For coach class, the airlines scored as follows (ratings based on a scale of 1-100):

  • Southwest – 85
  • Alaska – 84
  • JetBlue – 83
  • Virgin America – 83
  • Hawaiian – 80
  • Delta – 75
  • Allegiant – 70
  • American – 68
  • United – 67
  • Frontier – 63
  • Spirit – 62

For coach customers, Southwest delivered the best overall experience. But only one airline was rated anything but “poor” for seating comfort or legroom. JetBlue was graded “fair” on both counts.

That isn’t likely to improve anytime soon, as travelers continue to snap up coach seats based on price, and the airlines continue to squeeze ever more seats into the coach cabins.

Only five carriers were rated for their premium service, as follows:

  • Hawaiian – 89
  • Alaska – 89
  • Delta – 85
  • American – 80
  • United – 79

Again, the big three so-called full-service airlines—American, Delta, United—were among the poorest performers. Proving, perhaps, the futility of trying to be all things to all people.

Reader Reality Check

Will the airlines ever improve their coach product?

More from SmarterTravel:

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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