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Survey: Air Travel Satisfaction Up Slightly; Hotels Fare Better

Satisfaction with airlines has increased slightly, but poor service still remains a problem, an annual survey of travelers released Tuesday shows.

Travelers rate airlines 3 percent higher than last year in the American customer satisfaction index, which measures travelers’ satisfaction with products and services during the first quarter of each year.

On a scale of zero to 100, travelers give airlines an average satisfaction score of 69 — two points higher than a year ago.

The improvement is not a reason to rejoice, though, because “air travel remains a rather uncomfortable and costly experience for most passengers,” says Claes Fornell, founder of the index, which surveyed 1,661 passengers by telephone and e-mail between Jan. 21 and March 17.

Of 43 industries measured this year and last year by the satisfaction index, “only subscription TV and Internet service providers have lower levels of customer satisfaction,” he says.

Business travelers’ satisfaction with airlines increased for a second consecutive year — from 61 in 2011, to 66 last year, to 69 this year. Despite the gains, business travelers “demand more” and are less satisfied than non-business fliers.

For a second consecutive year, JetBlue ranks No.1 in passenger satisfaction. Its 83 score is two points higher than last year.

Southwest Airlines ranks No.2 this year with an 81 score, four points higher than a year ago.

JetBlue and Southwest “do a good job in keeping consumer expectations to what they actually can deliver,” he says. The airlines offer no-frills service, but “get passengers and their luggage to the destination on time and at a low price.”

United Airlines receives the lowest average satisfaction score — 62 — the same score as last year, when it also finished at the bottom. US Airways has the second-lowest score, 64.

United, which announced a merger with Continental Airlines in 2010, has been unable to achieve the much higher scores Continental received before the merger.

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