Low-cost carriers such as JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines and Frontier Airlines received high marks from travelers for comfort, on-time performance and overall service in a Consumer Reports survey.
The discounters handily beat larger, older airlines such as United Airlines and US Airways, which finished at the bottom of rankings covering 18 carriers.
JetBlue led the results, followed by Midwest Airlines and Southwest Airlines. Denver-based Frontier came in fourth.
Most of the carriers that received high marks "just seem to take a more personal approach," said Greg Daugherty, executive editor of Consumer Reports. "People report they are happier with checking in and with the service they get from the cabin staff. Maybe (it's) a combination of price and also a level of personal attention."
United, the largest airline at Denver International Airport, finished 16th. The carrier has ranked low in similar surveys in recent years but says it is working to improve its service levels.
"We clearly know we need to do a better job at giving customers services they expect, and work is under way to make this a priority," said United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski.
The survey shows airlines in general have a long way to go when it comes to customer satisfaction.
The industry's average score was only 72, "worse than that of hotels and rental car companies and better only than such perennials of frustration as wireless carriers, cable TV operators, and computer tech support," Consumer Reports says about the rankings in its July issue.
The survey, conducted in February by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, incorporates the responses of 22,997 subscribers and covers 31,455 domestic flights. The magazine carried out a follow-up survey in April soon after weather-related blunders involving JetBlue and US Airways in March.
JetBlue's ranking and score did not change, while US Airways fell 10 points.
Low-cost carriers led the pack in Consumer Reports' airline satisfaction survey. Larger "legacy" airlines tended to rank lower.*
1 JetBlue 87
2 Midwest 86
3 Southwest 80
4 Frontier 78
5 Hawaiian 78
14 Northwest 66
15 American Eagle 65
16 United 64
17 America West** 62
18 US Airways 62
*Based On A 100-Point Scale **America West Began A Merger In 2005 But Is Still Listed Separately. Source: Consumer Reports
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