It seems that we customers hate airlines generally but we don’t hate all airlines equally. According to the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index, airlines are at the bottom of the ratings chart when it comes to customer satisfaction but there’s a huge spread within the industry.
Delta Air Lines came out at the bottom with a 56 percent satisfaction rating and Southwest Airlines on top with 81 percent. This is dramatic, but not surprising. Southwest has consistently been the best-run and most profitable corporation in the industry but, contrary to conventional Wall Street wisdom, that doesn’t mean it has been the most ruthless and cheap.
Quite the reverse. Southwest has some of the highest pay rates in the industry. It has never laid off an employee. I believe the mutual respect between its management and unions translates into better treatment of passengers. It also helps that Southwest has never instituted checked bag fees and that it charges no fees for changing a ticket.
The no change-fee policy came in handy for me lately. I recently changed my return ticket from Las Vegas and paid only $5, the difference in fares. When I booked a trip to New Mexico as a gift for my husband, I chose Southwest even though its fares were not the lowest because I knew I could change the tickets if the timing was inconvenient for him.
If Southwest didn’t exist, we might believe that poor customer service is necessary for airlines to scrape out a profit. But we know better.