Airline passengers fed up with service except for Southwest

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 22, 2011 2:44 PM

BOSTON (Reuters) - Saddled with added fees and higher fares, travelers are fed up with paying more and getting less from major airlines, survey results released on Tuesday showed.

With the exception of Southwest, the no-frills airline where bags fly free, major airlines fail to satisfy leisure travelers and disappoint business travelers even more, according to the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index.

"There's been a bubbling discontent for airlines for some time, but the situation has worsened slightly from a year ago," said ACSI managing director David VanAmburg.

Travelers cited poor service, higher prices and fees for baggage and other services as the main causes of their discontent, it said.

Passenger satisfaction with airlines dropped by 1.5 percent to a score of 65 on ACSI's 100 point scale. Scores have generally hovered in the mid-to-low 60s for the last decade.

Southwest continues to reap top customer service ratings -- and a score of 81 -- in part because it has not taken anything away from customers and then offered it back for a fee, said VanAmburg.

"Now it's the Deltas and Uniteds and Americans that have to act like Southwest has for years," said VanAmburg of Southwest's minimalist service model.

Behind Southwest, Continental scored 64, American 63, United and US Airways tied at 61 and Delta dropped to 56 on the ACSI scale.

Surveys from 2,000 customers put airlines at the bottom of the heap of some four dozen industries tracked by ACSI, alongside newspapers.

Business passengers reported being the least satisfied.

"We're seeing a greater discontent among business travelers simply because they are putting themselves out there more to be let down by the airlines or an experience," said VanAmburg.

Recent mergers, known to have a detrimental affect on satisfaction, pose added pressure, he said.

Delta Air Lines plunged to the bottom of all the airlines for customer satisfaction one year after completing its Northwest acquisition, ACSI reported.

The fate of United, which absorbed Continental, and Southwest, which acquired AirTran, remained uncertain, it said.

(Reporting by Lauren Keiper; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Greg McCune)