Southwest Airlines, Choice Hotels and Marriott have the best travel apps and mobile websites, according to the Mobile Satisfaction Index: Travel Edition, released today by Ann Arbor-based ForeSee data analytics company.

Still, even those travel sites need to get better, according to the study of consumers’ mobile experiences with 25 airlines, hotels, online travel agencies and car rental companies. Most travel apps and mobile sites got no more than 78 points out of 100 in satisfaction.

“The app users are more satisfied than the mobile users,” says Eric Feinberg, senior director of mobile. “I have the data now to prove it with great clarity.” Mobile sites are simplified versions of regular websites that are easier to use on a small device. But they can’t beat apps that consumers download, which are faster and better designed.

Even though travel app users are happier than mobile site users, far more consumers reported using mobile sites instead of apps when researching travel, he said.

More surprising? Experts used to think that people would use the “best possible screen” to look at travel websites — using a desktop or laptop at home while saving eye-straining mobile screens for the road — but they were wrong.

“Over 70% of consumers using mobile (travel) sites are doing it from home. People are not using the best available screen, they are using the most convenient screen,” Feinberg said. In addition, only 23% of people who view mobile sites and apps actually book on those platforms.

That means that travel companies need to step up.

“People are aching for better experiences in mobile,” Feinberg said. “People say, I want more swiping, more zooming; I want it to remember me.” People also want to be able to easily filter choices, not be forced to wade through too many options, he added.

Mobile satisfaction with top 25 travel companies

Mobile Experience Satisfaction
Industry average 77
Southwest Airlines 82
Choice Hotels International 80
Marriott International 79
Avis Rent-a-Car 78
Enterprise Rent-a-Car 78
Hyatt Corp 78
Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts 78
Wyndham Hotels & Resorts 78 78 78
American Airlines 77
Delta Airlines 77
Budget 77
Hertz 77
Hilton Worldwide 77
Starwood Hotels & Resorts 77
Best Western International 76 76 76
Amtrak 76
United Airlines 75
Dollar 75 75 75
US Airways 74

What’s the hardest thing to put onto a travel mobile/app site? An airline seat map, which requires designers to pack a lot of information in a tiny space.

Feinberg predicts that within the next year, half of all travel apps will get new versions.

“These apps will know exactly where you are, and they’ll also be aware of their experience with you on other channels,” he said. “There will be a lot more swiping and a lot less typing. Let’s say you are going to Barcelona. You won’t have to key in Barcelona. You just zoom in and everything will render.”

Here are more results of the ForeSee travel mobile study:

  • Among airline mobile/apps, Southwest got the best consumer satisfaction ranking, followed by American, Delta, United and U.S. Airways.
  • Among hotel mobile/apps, Choice scored best, followed by Marriott, Hyatt, Intercontinental, Wyndham, Hilton and Starwood.
  • Among car rental agency mobile/apps, Avis and Enterprise tied for best, followed by Budget, Hertz and Dollar.
  • Among online travel agency mobile/apps, Kayak and Travelocity scored tops, followed by Expedia, Priceline, and Orbitz.
  • No company ranked above 82 points on a 100-point scale.

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