Every business will tell you that Customer Satisfaction is the name of the game. Something many travelers might find hard to believe sometimes, given the horror stories around the internet, the changes to loyalty programs, and the feeling of sameness from one provider to the next. There are some innovators and leaders, who really push the customer service envelope; something that benefits the entire industry in the same way a rising tide life all ships. According to the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index, the tide is (mostly) rising in travel industries.
It’s been an interesting year for airlines, with American Airlines and US Airways completing their merger, and Delta overhauling their frequent flyer program. In fact, US News & World Report named consolidation and changes in loyalty programs as two of The Biggest Travel Flops of 2015. So, perhaps the most surprising result in the ACSI for 2015 is the fact that the airline industry was one of just five segments with higher customer satisfaction results. You read that right: of 43 industries tracked in the survey of about 330 companies, airlines were one of the only industries to improve this past year. Airlines overall saw a nearly 3-point increase in customer satisfaction, scoring a near-record high of 71. The industry’s high-point was a 72 in 1994, but carriers have historically been among the poorest performers in the annual survey.
JetBlue continues to be a customer favorite, rising 2.5% to a customer satisfaction score of 81. Low-cost carriers Frontier and Spirit were included for the first time this year, and scraped the bottom of the segment’s barrel at 58 and 54, respectively. In between those extremes, Southwest remained flat at 78, and Alaska debuted with a score of 75. The “Big Three” are next: Delta at 71, American Airlines at 66, and United at 60; the same scores as last year. Allegiant also debuted this year, at 65, and “All Others” scored a collective 73, up 4.3%. Overall, a strong showing for the industry at a time when many travelers still believe airline service is not what it used to be.
Elsewhere in the Travel sector, online travel services saw a 1.3% increase in customer satisfaction this year, scoring a collective 78. Expedia led the field, rising to a 77, while Orbitz, Priceline and Travelocity all scored a 75. That’s a 2.6% fall for Orbitz, while Priceline was the same as last year, and Travelocity rose slightly. “All others” scored an averaged 78, the same as last year.
The Hotel category was flat from last year, with an ACSI score of 75. A trio of hospitality heavyweights lead the pack, all scoring 80: Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide, and Hyatt Hotels. It’s worth noting that Marriott slipped about 1% this year, losing sole ownership of the top spot, while Hilton and Hyatt both improved just over 2.5%.
LaQuinta debuted on the list with a score of 76, tying Starwood and InterContinental Hotels Group. Best Western came in with a 74, and Choice Hotels slipped to a 73. At the bottom of the ranking were Wyndham at 68, and Motel 6 debuting with a 63. “All Others” rose 2.7% to a score of 75.
The survey rates companies on a scale of 0 to 100 – the higher, the better – based on customer satisfaction surveys. The national ACSI benchmark score, a weighted average of all industries measured, was 73.8 this year.