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Customer Satisfaction with Airlines Is a Dismal Failure

The airline industry has failed miserably in yet another consumer survey. Earlier this year, there was the low 2013 Airline Quality Rating score. And then came the unfavorable airline satisfaction scores from J.D. Power and Associates. Oh, airlines. You are so predictable.

According to this year’s American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), in which 70,000 participants were asked to size up more than 230 companies, the airline industry is one of the most hated in America. However, passenger satisfaction with U.S. airlines has increased by a very slim margin since last year. The report says that passengers are .03 percent more satisfied with airlines this year; this brings the industry to an ACSI score of 69, up from 67 in 2012. Although the airlines’ score has risen slightly, it’s still very low relative to most other industries considered in this survey.

Some of the industries that received stellar ACSI scores this year include consumer shipping and soft drinks, which scored 84; credit unions, which scored 82; and athletic shoes, which received a score of 80. Televisions and video players/recorders took the top spot with an industry-leading score of 86.

Only two industries were ranked below the airlines: subscription television service and Internet service providers. Look at it this way: At least your airline isn’t as awful as your cable company.

The less-than-shocking results continue: Of the individual carriers ranked in this report, discount and regional airlines received the highest scores. JetBlue, Southwest, and “all other airlines” were given the highest ratings, respectively, followed by the four legacy carriers: Delta, American, US Airways, and United.

Claes Fornell, ACSI’s founder and chairman, told Bloomberg Businessweek that the airline industry’s dismal score “is what it is, but you know a lot of it is in part because of a lack of competition and because it is a difficult industry to manage in.” Though the four (soon to be three) remaining legacy airlines have yet to form one big anti-customer conglomerate, the outlook for flyers isn’t rosy. Based on the crumbling coach-class products we’ve seen from major U.S. airlines in recent years, the big surprise is that satisfaction scores improved at all. I suspect that such a small uptick falls within the study’s margin of error.

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