T wo of the nation's smallest airlines - JetBlue Airways and Midwest Airlines - topped Consumer Reports' latest reader survey ratings of 18 carriers.
US Airways and America West Airlines, which merged in late 2005, occupied the bottom of the rankings, which appears in the July issue of Consumer Reports.
About 23,000 readers reported on their experiences on more than 31,000 domestic flights in a survey in early February by the magazine's research center.
The survey covered ease of check-in, seating comfort, on-time performance and in-flight service.
Travelers also assessed independent ticket-booking sites such as Expedia.com and reported few differences among them.
The magazine said it conducted a smaller, follow-up survey in April, soon after the much-publicized weather-related meltdown of JetBlue in mid-February that stranded thousands of passengers, including some from Richmond.
They also asked readers about US Airways' problems in mid-March after an ice storm hit its Philadelphia hub.
The second survey "found that JetBlue's blues had little effect on the airline's overall levels of satisfaction," according to a press release.
"But US Airways, which was already at the bottom of the magazine's ratings, fell another 10 points in the follow-up survey."
By that measure, US Airways, which has the single largest share of passengers in Richmond, fell to 52, with 100 the most satisfied score.
The February reader survey gave US Airways the higher score of 62 - or just above being "fairly well satisfied." By contrast, JetBlue scored an 87.
US Airways spokeswoman Valerie Wunder said yesterday that the airline is pursuing a series of customer service measures to improve reliability and meet passengers' needs.
These include more airport staffing and improved ticket kiosks.
Two other airlines serving Richmond - United Airlines and American Eagle - were in the bottom five.
At JetBlue Airways, spokesman Bryan Baldwin said the magazine's survey shows the airline's customers "see the bigger picture and don't rate us on one experience."
WHO SHOULD YOU FLY WITH?
Consumer Reports' National Research Center surveyed 22,997 online subscribers in February on airline satisfaction. If all respondents were completely satisfied, the reader score would be 100. A score of 80 indicates respondents were very satisfied; 60 fairly-well satisfied. Here are the top five and bottom five rankings. America West and US Airways merged in late 2005.
* JetBlue: 87
* Midwest: 86
* Southwest: 80
* Frontier: 78
* Hawaiian: 78
* Northwest: 66
* American Eagle: 65
* United: 64
* America West: 62
* US Airways: 62
Contact Chip Jones at (804) 649-6726 or email@example.com