Source: Sun Sentinel
By Arlene Satchell

Although there’s still room to improve, major airlines are doing a better job of satisfying their passengers this year, according to a report released Tuesday.

Still, airlines remain among the bottom three of 47 industries measured by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, or ACSI, despite rising 3 percent in 2012 to 67 points on a 100-point scale.

Air travel remains plagued by low passenger satisfaction, rising airfares, ancillary fees and poor customer service, results of the ACSI June report showed.

“High ticket prices, growing fees and poor service are not a formula for strong customer satisfaction in the airline industry,” ACSI founder Claes Fornell said in a statement.

Report newcomer JetBlue Airways ranked tops among airlines for customer satisfaction, debuting at 81 points, replacing Southwest Airlines, which led in 2011.

Southwest’s merger with AirTran Airways dragged its scores down this year by five percent to 77 for second place, according to the report.

“Airline mergers tend to create significant passenger dissatisfaction in the short term as operations are combined and consolidated,” said Fornell.

In November, Southwest will take over some AirTran routes as part of the merger.

Although still struggling on the satisfaction index, Delta’s score rebounded 16 percent in 2012 to 65 after tanking last year following its merger with Northwest. US Airways also scored 65, followed by American Airlines and United with 64 and 62 respectively, all considered among the poorer performers.

Spirit, Frontier and Alaska Air, among the “other” category of airlines, did a better job of pleasing fliers this year, scoring 74 points as a group.

In addition to airlines, the report measured customer satisfaction with hotels, full-service restaurants, fast food chains, consumer shipping and USPS mail services.

Customer satisfaction with hotels remained flat at 77 points, with Hilton leading the industry with 80 points. Red Lobster was the top full-service restaurant and Wendy’s the top burger vendor.

The index compiles and inputs data from interviews from about 70,000 customers annually to measure customer satisfaction.

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