The Best and Worst Customer Service in the Airline Industry

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The airlines industry consistently falls into the lower third of all industries when it comes to customer service and satisfaction. The one saving grace for the industry has been reduced fares. On just about every other score, their reputation sinks.

In our recent survey on customer service conducted by Zogby Analytics, the top-ranked airline placed 30th among all 150 companies and 17 industries included in the survey. The lowest ranked airline ranked dead last among all 150 companies and another airline ranked 146th.

The survey included a telephone interview with 1,500 randomly selected U.S. consumers. Respondents were asked to rate their satisfaction level with a company’s customer service on a scale of “excellent,” “good,” “fair,” and “poor” for each company.

We reported our overall findings in our Customer Service Hall of Fame and Customer Service Hall of Shame stories published in August. We have also broken out and taken a look at the pay-TV industry and the mobile network carrier industry and their poor customer service ratings.

Here is a listing of seven airlines ranked from best to worst based on the percentage of “excellent” ratings they received in the survey. Also included are the percentage of “poor ratings” and the revenues generated by the airlines in their most recent fiscal year. We’ve also included data points from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Report for July, the latest month for which data are available.

Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE: LUV)
> Overall rank: 30th
> Pct. “excellent” ratings: 35.96%
> Pct. “poor” ratings: 4.63%
> Revenue last fiscal year: $20.43 billion

Southwest’s on-time arrival percentage was 74.9% in July and its cancellation rate was 0.7%, or 852 of nearly 118,000 scheduled flights. Mishandled baggage affected 3.38 customers per 1,000 travelers, or about 49,000 of the airline’s 14.44 million passengers in July.

JetBlue Airways Corp. (NASDAQ: JBLU)
> Overall rank: 53rd
> Pct. “excellent” ratings: 32.99%
> Pct. “poor” ratings: 6.86%
> Revenue last fiscal year: $6.63 billion

JetBlue’s on-time arrival percentage was 63.5% in July, the worst of any airline, and its cancellation rate was 2.5%, or 659 of more than 26,000 scheduled flights. Mishandled baggage affected 1.81 customers per 1,000 travelers, or about 5,500 of the airline’s 3.04 million passengers in July.

American Airlines Group Inc. (NASDAQ: AAL)
> Overall rank: 68th
> Pct. “excellent” ratings: 31.05%
> Pct. “poor” ratings: 8.69%
> Revenue last fiscal year: $40.18 billion

American’s on-time arrival percentage was 73.1% in July and its cancellation rate was 1.9% or 1,506 of more than 79,000 scheduled flights. Mishandled baggage affected 1.79 customers per 1,000 travelers, or about more than 38,000 of the airline’s 11.03 million passengers in July.

Alaska Air Group Inc. (NYSE: ALK)
> Overall rank: 81st
> Pct. “excellent” ratings: 30.2%
> Pct. “poor” ratings: 6.82%
> Revenue last fiscal year: $5.93 billion

Alaska’s on-time arrival percentage was 85.7% in July, the highest among these seven airlines, and its cancellation rate was 0.4%, or 69 of more than 17,000 scheduled flights. Mishandled baggage affected 3.47 customers per 1,000 travelers, or about 4,200 of the airline’s 2.35 million passengers in July.

Delta Air Lines Inc. (NYSE: DAL)
> Overall rank: 122nd
> Pct. “excellent” ratings: 25.67%
> Pct. “poor” ratings: 7.07%
> Revenue last fiscal year: $39.64 billion

Delta’s on-time arrival percentage was 83.1% in July and its cancellation rate was effectively zero, or just 36 of more than 83,000 scheduled flights. Mishandled baggage affected 1.77 customers per 1,000 travelers, the lowest rate among all U.S. airlines, or more than 21,000 of the airline’s 2.35 million passengers in July.

United Continental Holdings Inc. (NYSE: UAL)
> Overall rank: 146th
> Pct. “excellent” ratings: 21.24%
> Pct. “poor” ratings: 16.32%
> Revenue last fiscal year: $36.56 billion

United’s on-time arrival percentage was 78.7% in July and its cancellation rate was 2.9%, or 416 of more than 14,000 scheduled flights, the worst among these seven airlines. Mishandled baggage affected 1.8 customers per 1,000 travelers, or nearly 23,000 of the airline’s 8 million passengers in July.

Spirit Airlines Inc. (NASDAQ: SAVE)
> Overall rank: 150th
> Pct. “excellent” ratings: 18.42%
> Pct. “poor” ratings: 16.4%
> Revenue last fiscal year: $1.42 billion

Spirit’s on-time arrival percentage was 73.5% in July and its cancellation rate was 0.8%, or 435 of nearly 54,000 scheduled flights. Mishandled baggage affected 2.86 customers per 1,000 travelers, or about 3,700 of the airline’s 2.09 million passengers in July.