Southwest vs. JetBlue vs. Alaska: Which airline is best?

When it comes to customer satisfaction, the major U.S. airlines have a lot of room for improvement.

According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s latest report, passenger satisfaction with airlines is down 2.7% to 73 on a scale of 0 to 100.

“Lower fuel prices during the 2014-2016 oil crash kept airfares down, which led to somewhat higher passenger satisfaction over the past three years. However, rising costs and new labor agreements have made it more difficult to keep ticket prices as low, which may be contributing to this year’s ACSI decline.”

New report ranks U.S. airlines from best to worst 

Southwest remained steady, with an ACSI score of 80 for the third straight year. The airline reclaimed the lead from JetBlue (79), which fell to second place and tied with Alaska.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is Allegiant, which jumped 4% to an ACSI score of 74.

The ACSI noted that the low-cost carrier “may be heading straight into turbulence” after a report from CBS’ “60 Minutes” on mechanical issues and safety concerns with the airline.

Meanwhile, full-fare airlines American, Delta and United fell in the rankings but stayed ahead of Frontier and Spirit.

Company 2017 2018 Change
Southwest 80 80 0%
Alaska 78 79 1%
JetBlue 82 79 -4%
Allegiant 71 74 4%
American 76 74 -3%
Delta 76 74 -3%
All others 74 73 -1%
United 70 67 -4%
Frontier 63 62 -2%
Spirit 61 62 2%

With the exception of check-in, the report found that every aspect of flying has deteriorated: making reservations, flight crew courtesy, baggage handling, seat comfort and more.

“The 18-point gap between first place and last place among airlines is fairly typical,” said David VanAmburg, Managing Director at ACSI. “Customer satisfaction is going to be lower for the ultra-low-cost carriers, which are focused more on price than quality, and the scores reflect that. The same holds true among hotels. As costs rise and seats shrink, a focus on customer service and loyalty will set some airlines apart.”

Money expert Clark Howard says the most interesting thing about this study is that the top three airlines are all mid-priced carriers — and the legacy and discount airlines ranked much lower.

Read the full report from the ACSI and learn Clark’s two-step strategy to find the cheapest flights possible!

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