By Herb Weisbaum, The ConsumerMan
The airline industry is doing a slightly better job of making customers happy, although it's nothing to get overly-excited about.
Passenger satisfaction rose 2.9 percent from a year ago (scoring 71 out of 100) in the
2015 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Travel Report released on Monday.
"While there is some improvement from a year ago, it's important to note that airline satisfaction is still very low," said ACSI director David VanAmburg.
"In fact, among the nearly four dozen industries we rate, only a handful
rank lower: health insurance, cable TV and Internet service providers."
The airlines are doing a better job of getting us there on time and handling our baggage. It's the onboard experience that's lagging. Not surprisingly, seats remain the worst part of flying.
"Seat comfort is by far the lowest scoring element of the entire experience and that's
unlikely to change," VanAmburg told NBC News. "We don't like it, but it's something we've
learned to live with."
JetBlue, which has topped the ACSI list since 2012, continues to set the pace for passenger satisfaction with a score of 81, up three percent. JetBlue increased its lead over low-cost rival Southwest, which held flat at 78, but still remained well ahead of the industry average of 73.
Here's how the other carriers did: Alaska (75), Delta (71), American (66), Allegiant (65), United (60), Frontier (58) and Spirit (54).
The hotel stay remains a much more satisfying part of travel, although the industry score held steady at 75. Staff courtesy dropped from a year ago. And guests are often unhappy with the
"free" WiFi service they get in their room.
"If it's free and it doesn't work well, you're going to
irritate customers," VanAmburg noted.
Not surprisingly, upscale and luxury brands top the satisfaction list. Hilton's upscale Homewood Suites and the luxury Grand Hyatt tied for first place at 83, followed by Hilton's Hampton Inn and the Hyatt (both at 81). Embassy Suites Hotels, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Residence Inn, Hyatt Place and Double Tree round out the top tier, each scored 80.
People expect to pay more at these hotels, but they also expect to get more for their money. And the survey found, they generally do.
A few well-known brands had below-average guest satisfaction: Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, Sheraton and Crown Plaza, all come in at 74.
Booking travel online remains a generally pleasant experience, with an ACSI score of 78 out of 100. Customers find these sites easy to navigate. Hotel and airline websites got high marks.
Of the big name travel sites, Expedia is slightly ahead of the pack at 77. Orbitz and Priceline both scored 75.
Airline customer satisfaction gets a tiny bit better