Air passengers are fewer, but happier
MINNEAPOLIS - Airlines are doing a better job of taking care of the passengers they still have, according to a new study.
Passenger satisfaction with airline service rose 3.2 percent earlier this year, the first increase in six years, according to a University of Michigan study to be released today.
The increase came as the number of passengers dropped and airlines reduced flying. Also passengers checked fewer bags as luggage fees became more common, making it easier for airlines to keep track of the bags that remained. Enplanements on US routes dropped 1.5 percent in 2008, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
And if fewer passengers are the reason for the improved satisfaction score, imagine how happy they'll be this year, when the FAA expects domestic boardings to fall 8.8 percent.
Southwest Airlines Co. had the highest score, 81 on a zero-to-100 scale. After that it was Continental Airlines Inc. at 68, Delta Air Lines Inc. at 64, AMR Corp.'s American Airlines at 60, US Airways Group Inc. at 59, Northwest Airlines at 57, and UAL Corp.'s United Airlines at 56.
The overall satisfaction improvement at airlines masked some big jumps at individual carriers, according to the university's American Customer Satisfaction Index.
The most improved were Continental Airlines Inc., up 9.7 percent, and US Airways Group Inc., up 9.3 percent. Customer satisfaction at US Airways was on the rebound after a big drop in 2007, when it had the worst on-time showing among big carriers. For 2008, US Airways was first among big carriers for on-time arrivals.