May 19, 2009

Airline satisfaction improves slightly

An index of customer satisfaction shows U.S. airline scores improved for the first time since 2003, a university research group said.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index, developed at the University of Michigan, said passenger satisfaction increased 3 percent to 64, ending a downward slide that, with few interruptions, began in 1994, the report said.

The only large airline with a declining score during the quarter was American Airlines, where the index dropped to 60, down 3 percent. In the survey, Southwest Airlines continued to lead the pack with a score of 81.

Southwest appears well prepared for today's economic conditions with its no-frills approach, low fares and reliable service, said Claes Fornell, founder of the ACSI.

The report said United Airlines anchors the bottom, with score of 56.

Continental Airlines showed the biggest improvement with a score that jumped 10 percent to 68. US Airways gained 9 percent to 59. Delta's score rose 7 percent to 64, while the score for Northwest, Delta's partner in a merger last year, held even at 57, just off the bottom, the report said.

The index uses scores of 1-100 with 100 as the top score.