Airlines Disappoint Customers

There’s a great headline in USA Today this morning: Airlines score lower than IRS in customer satisfaction. Oh, burn, as the kids would say.

Airlines scored a 63 percent in the American Customer Satisfaction index, compared with 65 percent for the IRS. The only worse score was 62 for that vast wasteland, the cable and satellite TV industry.

The top airline for customer satsfaction, with a 76 percent approval rating, is Southwest. That would have surprised me 10 years ago, or even five, although it should not have. Southwest has been on top all that time.

When you think about it, Southwest is one of the only airlines flying in the United States that delivers the same level of service today that it did five or 10 years ago. It’s no coincidence, of course, that it has also been one of the only consistently profitable airlines during that time.

There’s been much talk lately that Southwest’s earnings are flattening out, and that it must raise more revenue to satsisfy its shareholders.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly recently suggested that instead of cutting back or charging for services that are now free, the airline would look at fees for new services, such as wireless Internet access during flights.

"What else can we add of value that customers would be willing to pay for?" Krone said. "What we don’t want to do is convince ourselves that Coke actually is an add-on." Bravo.


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