American Customer Satisfaction Index Puts JetBlue, Hilton on Top
By James Shillinglaw
June 19, 2012 11:11 AM
The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) said major airlines are doing a better job of satisfying their passengers this year, with JetBlue scoring highest among consumers. Consumer satisfaction with hotels is table, with Hilton once again coming out on top.
According to ACSI’s report released on June 19, at 67 (on a scale of 0 to 100), customer satisfaction with airlines matches its best level in a decade. On the other hand, despite gaining 3.1 percent for 2012, airlines remain in the bottom 3 among 47 ACSI industries, along with subscription TV service (66) and the newspaper industry (64).
“High ticket prices, growing fees, and poor service are not a formula for strong customer satisfaction in the airline industry,” said Claes Fornell, ACSI founder and author of “The Satisfied Customer: Winners and Losers in the Battle for Buyer Preference.” “The industry is doing a better job of serving business travelers as witnessed by the rise in their overall customer satisfaction -- from 61 last year to 66 in 2012 -- but leisure travelers remain far more satisfied with a score of 71.”
ACSI’s June report covers customer satisfaction with airlines, hotels, full-service restaurants, fast food chains, consumer shipping, and the mail services of the United States Postal Service (USPS). Among the travel categories, Southwest has relinquished first place in customer satisfaction to JetBlue. For 2012, JetBlue debuts at 81, the same score that Southwest led with in 2011. Meanwhile, Southwest’s merger with low-cost competitor AirTran seems to have dampened its passenger satisfaction, with the airline dropping 5 percent to second place at 77.
Last year, Delta’s ACSI score dropped following its merger with Northwest. This year, Delta rebounded 16 percent to 65 -- a score that remains quite low, but is no longer in last place. US Airways gained 7 percent and tied Delta at 65. American Airlines and United showed small 2 percent increases for 2012, but both remain poor ACSI performers at 64 and 62, respectively. In contrast to the large legacy airlines, the aggregate of all other airlines (such as small carrier Alaska Airlines or low-cost airlines Spirit and Frontier) are doing a better job of pleasing passengers, despite a 3 percent downturn to 74.
Customer satisfaction with hotels is stable at 77, which is much higher than airlines, but lower than either restaurant category this year. Business travelers are less satisfied with their chosen hotels than vacationers (ACSI score of 72 compared with 77), which mimics results for the airline industry. There is little movement among the top hotel brands. Among eight major chains, five show ACSI changes of 1 percent or less compared to 2011.
Hilton retains the industry lead with an unchanged ACSI score of 80, followed by Marriott at 78. InterContinental ties the aggregate of smaller chains and individual hotels at 77. A trio of companies received a score of 76: Hyatt, Best Western and Choice Hotels. Starwood dropped back to 75 after a 5 percent loss, while Wyndham trails the field at 70 (down 4 percent).