Study: Traveler satisfaction improving, but holiday flight woes stung



Complaints against Delta, other airlines skyrocketed in 2022

Mass flight cancellations over the holiday season caused major frustrations for fliers, but some aspects of the travel experience are improving, according to a new study released Tuesday.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index travel study found that overall satisfaction with airlines inched up 1 percentage point, despite an arctic blast that upended the holiday travel plans of millions.

But not all airlines saw an improvement in their customer satisfaction scores, based on the survey conducted April 2022-March 2023.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines is one of two carriers along with JetBlue that saw a decline in satisfaction. Delta saw its customer satisfaction score dip 1 point to a 76 on a 100-point scale, putting it in near the middle of a ranking of U.S. airlines.

Delta’s high air fares may be a factor, since it has seen declines in ratings on “perceived value,” according to ACSI.

Many airlines had an increase in complaints in 2022, but Delta saw the number of complaints filed by its passengers with the U.S. Department of Transportation nearly triple in 2022, to 4,616 complaints, from 1,594 in 2021. That’s also significantly higher than the 963 complaints filed against Delta in pre-pandemic 2019.

Southwest Airlines, which had the worst operational meltdown during the holidays among major carriers, actually saw its ACSI satisfaction score increase by 1 point to 78.

But the customer frustrations did appear more starkly at the beginning of this year.

Customer satisfaction with airlines sank in January, reflecting passenger sentiment after the holiday travel season, with call center satisfaction getting particularly low marks, according to the ACSI study. But satisfaction substantially rebounded in February.

Travelers gave high ratings in the ACSI survey to airlines’ mobile apps, website, check-in, reservations and boarding experience.

They gave low ratings to airlines’ in-flight beverage and food, seat comfort and in-flight entertainment.

Alaska Airlines ranked highest in the study, with a score of 81, while Spirit Airlines ranked lowest with a score of 64.

The ACSI survey is based on interviews with 10,588 customers.

Hotel guests’ satisfaction increased 6% in the ACSI study, with guests giving high ratings to hotels for their mobile apps, reservations and check-in and checkout process. InterContinental Hotels Group, which has its Americas office in Atlanta, saw a 3% increase in its score to 76. The highest-rated hotel chains were Hyatt and Marriott with a score of 80, while Wyndham scored the lowest with a 72.

ACSI is a national economic indicator started at the University of Michigan and licensed to ACSI LLC. It rates customer satisfaction for a variety of industries, ranging from the high-scoring athletic shoes and soft drinks industries to the low-scoring Internet Service Provider industry.