Airlines Take A Dip In Consumers’ Eyes, Car Rental Companies Make Customers Happy

It’s been a rough couple of months for airlines in this country, what with seats coming loose during flights and the rash of cancellations due to Mother Nature and things like contract disputes. All of that is likely part of the reason new numbers measuring the travel industry show that American travelers are feeling pretty fed up with airlines, while car rental companies are appearing a bit shinier in our eyes.

The  U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics received 12,145 consumer complaints about airline services in the first nine months of 2012, which is up a whopping 33.5% from those same months in 2011, reports the Chicago Tribune.

It was bad enough in September to put a cloud over the airline industry, with flight delays, cancellations, baggage issues, ticketing problems and customer service complaints abounding.

United Airlines had the most complaints that month at 211, while American Airlines — which has been plagued by contract disputes and those loosey-goosey seats — was at second with 162 complaints in September.

Perhaps those dissatisfied airline customers had occasion to take to the road instead and had a good experience while doing so, because rental car companies have been apparently getting along with their customers quite swimmingly. Satisfaction is up in that industry for the third year in a row, according to a study by J.D. Power & Associates. It’s not just that customers are satisfied, they’re reporting they’re the happiest they’ve been in seven years with a 769 out of 1,000 point-scale.

All it took, it seems, was improvements in the shuttles car rental companies use to get customers to and from the rental location, as well as daily rates and fees. Oh, and warm smiles — those are helping companies get a big rating on average of 795 if a customer is greeted with a grin.

Part of the satisfaction with a car rental company could just come from the fact that once you’re in that car, you can drive to where you need to go of your own accord. Sure beats sitting in an airport terminal for who knows how many hours, waiting to hear your travel fate and not being able to do a dang thing about it.

Airlines fall, car rental companies rise in travelers’ ratings [Chicago Tribune]