Following a down year, customer satisfaction with airlines and travel
websites rebounds while hotels take a dip.
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American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) results for travel 2018-2019 (Graphic: Business Wire)
According to the American
Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI®) Travel Report 2018-2019,
passenger satisfaction with airlines rises 1.4% to an ACSI score of 74
on a scale of 0 to 100, travel websites are up 1.3% to 79, and hotels
drop 1.3% to 75.
Domestic travel is on the rise and it appears that most travelers are
satisfied with their experiences.
Alaska Airlines takes over the top spot
This year, there is considerable improvement for several airlines:
Alaska, Delta, United, Frontier, and Spirit.
“Airlines sat at a near-record low of 62 just a dozen years ago,” says
David VanAmburg, Managing Director at the ACSI. “Now they’re among some
of the most improved industries over that time.”
Alaska becomes the new leader with a 1% gain to an ACSI score of 80. The
airline’s merger with Virgin America has paid off, according to
passengers who now enjoy an expanded network and lower fares.
Delta also rises 1% to an ACSI score of 75, making it number one among
legacy airlines. Passengers enjoy the airline’s many in-flight
amenities, including seatback screens, USB ports, and Wi-Fi. “Delta also
has plans to improve its mobile app by offering miles as currency,” says
VanAmburg. “This will enable its members to upgrade through the app.”
However, not all airlines fared well. After leading a year ago,
Southwest dips 1% to 79, tying with JetBlue, which remains unchanged.
Southwest has more Boeing 737 Max models than any other airline, leaving
it susceptible to safety concerns after Ethiopian Airlines and Air Lion
each experienced a deadly crash of that aircraft. Around 9,400 Southwest
flights were canceled the first quarter of this year because of safety
concerns and/or bad weather.
American Airlines drops below the industry average to 73 after a 1%
drop. Allegiant suffers the biggest decline, dropping 4% to 71. Despite
a 4% leap, United sits in the bottom three with a score of 70, only
besting Frontier (64) and Spirit (63), which see 3% and 2% climbs,
Mobile apps soar for airlines
Three areas of air travel show improvement this year: boarding
experience (79), call center satisfaction (78), and the range of flight
schedules (77). But the highest score goes to mobile apps at 82, which
the ACSI measures for the first time this year, matching ease of check
The ACSI includes other new metrics as well – cleanliness, overhead
storage, complimentary and ‘premium’ food, and in-flight entertainment –
to track some of the most problematic aspects of air travel.
While passengers are reasonably satisfied with cabin cleanliness (78),
they are unhappy with the availability and size of overhead storage, as
well as complimentary and ‘premium’ purchased food (73 each). There is
room for improvement with in-flight entertainment (71), but the worst
part of flying remains seat comfort (69), as limited leg room irks
Hilton and Marriott are home to top brands
Guest satisfaction with hotels drops 1.3% to an ACSI score of 75. Thanks
to a rise in online brokers like Airbnb, travelers have more choices and
traditional hotels are struggling to keep up.
“This is a transforming industry,” says VanAmburg. “If corporate hotels
aren’t able to step up, they’re going to continue to slide.”
Hilton leads with an ACSI score of 80 despite falling 2% to a
first-place tie with Marriott (down 1%). The two hoteliers still offer
more upscale and luxury properties, better guest service, and
higher-quality amenities than other hotel brands.
Luxury hotel JW Marriott takes the top spot among brands with an ACSI
score of 84. Hilton’s Embassy Suites and Marriott’s Fairfield Inn &
Suites tie at 83, followed by Hilton Garden Inn with a score of 82.
Marriott Hotels, InterContinental’s Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts,
Courtyard by Marriott, and Best Western Premier all score 81.
The brands with the lowest marks are all economy hotels: Days Inn
(Wyndham) at 68, Econo Lodge (Choice) at 67, Super 8 (Wyndham) at 65,
and Motel 6 (G6 Hospitality) at 63.
Hotels have deteriorated in almost every aspect according to guests.
It’s still easy to make a reservation and check in (each at 84), yet
both scores are down from the previous year. Staff is less courteous and
helpful (82), room quality worsens (81), and call center satisfaction,
which experiences the biggest drop, plummets 6% to 78 – the same mark as
quality of in-room amenities, a new ACSI benchmark.
Resolving complaints is increasingly important. Social media allows
guests to relay glitches to the hotel and to the online community, so
hotels need to adapt accordingly.
TripAdvisor debuts as trusted adviser among travel websites
As customer satisfaction with travel websites for booking flights,
hotels, and car rentals increases, a new company makes a splashing
TripAdvisor leads with an ACSI score of 82 thanks to its reputation as a
trusted source of user-generated reviews. Expedia’s Orbitz comes in
second place at 81, unchanged from last year.
Travelocity (owned by Expedia) takes the biggest hit in the category,
plunging 4% to 77. Priceline finishes at the bottom following a 3% skid
According to users, travel website mobile apps eclipse airlines with an
ACSI score of 85 for quality and 83 for reliability. Customers continue
to find it easy to make bookings and payments (84) on travel websites.
Ease of navigation and site performance are up as well (both 82).
In the end, only loyalty programs (74) and user-generated reviews (75)
see a decline for the category.
The ACSI Travel Report 2018-2019 on airlines, hotels, and
internet travel services is based on interviews with 12,873 customers,
chosen at random and contacted via email between April 5, 2018, and
March 27, 2019. Download the full Travel
No advertising or other promotional use can be made of the data and
information in this release without the express prior written consent of
Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI®) has been a
national economic indicator for 25 years. It measures and analyzes
customer satisfaction with more than 400 companies in 46 industries and
10 economic sectors, including various services of federal and local
government agencies. Reported on a scale of 0 to 100, ACSI scores are
based on data from interviews with roughly 300,000 customers annually.
For more information, visit www.theacsi.org.
ACSI and its logo are Registered Marks of the University of Michigan,
licensed worldwide exclusively to American Customer Satisfaction Index
LLC with the right to sublicense.