Only JetBlue, Southwest Score Above Average On Customer Satisfaction Index

For almost two decades, Southwest airlines has sat comfortably atop the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s annual survey of air carriers. But not only did Southwest’s numbers slip a bit in the new list, it also ceded the lead to JetBlue.

This is actually JetBlue’s first year listed among the major U.S. carriers in the ACSI survey, and it came straight out of the box with a score of 81, four points higher than Southwest, and tying that airline’s record-high scores from 2009 and 2011.

Speaking of Southwest, its drop from that impressive score to a still impressive 77 was blamed, in part, on the airline’s merger with AirTran.

“Airline mergers tend to create significant passenger dissatisfaction in the short term as operations are combined and consolidated,” says Claes Fornell, ACSI founder. “Southwest’s share value has declined 20% over the past year while the rest of the market stayed largely unscathed, with most major airlines flat or improving.”

But a tough merger is not the end of the world for an airline. Following its acquisition of Northwest, Delta had disastrous score of 56 in last year’s survey.

But 2012 was a comeback year for Delta, where the score jumped more than 16% to a score of 65, leap-frogging the airline over United and American with scores of 62 and 64, respectively.

Once again, the aggregate number for smaller airlines beat out almost all of the majors with a score of 74, while the entire industry averaged a score of 67. Of the majors listed in the survey, only Southwest and JetBlue scored higher than the independents or the industry as a whole.


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  1. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I haven’t used SW since the merger, but I would be dissatisfied, too, if I had to use AirTran and/or received service like AirTran.

    My experience at their Georgia hub was atrocious. I had a round trip that had a layover there both directions. Both times, my arrival gate changed midflight, and my departure gate changed mid-layover. So I’d get to a terminal I was not expecting to be at when I landed, then had to RUN to the literally opposite end of the entire airport to reach my connecting flight in time. This exact scenario occured both flights.

  2. Vox Republica says:

    Upon hearing the news, JetBlue chief executive officer Dave Barger ran around the board room, yelling about al-Qaeda and bombs, telling shareholders that “you’d better start praying now.” Mr. Barger was later subdued by Warren Buffett with a surprisingly deft rear naked chokehold that the head of Berkshire Hathaway jokingly called his “favorite put option.” Mr. Buffett then parachuted out of the window, landing atop a municipal bus, and vanishing over the horizon.

  3. CrazyEyed says:

    Doesn’t suprise me that the airlines associated with cheaper flights get the best ratings. We expect much less from these airlines because of the big boys nickle and diming their way to profitability.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      From all the comments I’ve heard about these two airlines, it seems they are providing great experiences for customers in spite of, rather than because of, their lower prices. They seem to know how to make customers happy, without the need to gouge them. Other legacy airlines don’t seem to understand how to do that, and istead are trying, and failing, to provide a positive consumer experience while also gouging them.

      • edman007 says:

        I don’t know about southwest, but Jet Blue has decent seats, and they include personal TV and radio with every seat. For personal flying I always fly them as it’s comparable in every aspect to all the major airlines, with the TV being the major exception, also jet blue always seems to be cheaper. I fly for work often too, and it’s whoever has the contract for us, and the TV is the biggest difference and it has a HUGE effect on my flying experience. I’ve never had a major issue with any airline, the worst being US Air telling my my coat was a third bag and I’d have to check it or put it in my other bag.

        I think this is how most people see them, with people who don’t fly often, all the airlines are generally just fine in every aspect and offer essentially the same service, but Jet Blue is cheaper and has TVs which gives you something to do on those long flights (especially when your laptop dies or you can’t use electronics).

        • humperdinck says:

          I recently flew on a renovated United plane with individual DirectTV displays in the seatbacks. They give you a “free preview!” during take-off and then make you swipe a CC to watch TV the rest of the flight. It’s free on JetBlue. That – and things like “first checked bag is free” – is why people like JetBlue. I’m surprised the big majors aren’t nickle and diming on seatbelts and oxygen masks yet.

  4. nopirates says:

    i don’t fly jetblue anymore

    the problem with jetblue is NOT their in-plane service or their much-loved T5 @ JFK, it’s the problems associated with clearing security there.

    there are at lease 16 checkpoints and i have never seen ,ore than 5 open. all have full body scanners making the time to travel through them much greater than the time to travel through metal detectors. the line is chaos and the TSA staff there is utterly rude, confrontational, and lethargic. if jetblue could do anything to bring me back as a customer it would be to deal with the problem at the checkpoint and figure out a way to make that work.

    • MikeTastic says:

      I agree. This is beyond frustrating. A couple of weeks ago I got to the airport an hour and 45 minutes before my domestic flight and cleared security just in time to get to the gate and see that they were boarding already. It really is atrocious. I’m not sure it’s JetBlue’s fault, since they don’t staff the TSA, but they really need to try and lobby for more security staffing. JFK T5 is lovely, but if you don’t have time to enjoy it then it may as well be any other terminal.

  5. xspook says:

    Jet Blue is my new go-to airline. My last two flights with them were the best I’ve had compared to any other airline in many years.

    • CommonSense(ಠ_ಠ) says:

      How are they different?
      Are their seats bigger as beyond that everyone is the same except for in-flight entertainment or internet.
      Southwest is the worst with their cattle call seating.

      • macnbc says:

        Jetblue has their seats spaced out a little further than other airlines, so you have more legroom and a greater seat pitch. They also offer free snacks (Once when I flew they offered me like 2 different kind of chips, and cookies.. I couldn’t decide so they gave me one of each), free soda, and free satellite TV.

        They’re pretty awesome, really.

  6. TheSurlyOne says:

    Southwest has low fares, allows two FREE checked bags and no change fees if you need to alter your travel dates. What’s not to love??? =)

    • Hartwig says:

      Ding ding ding, offer services your customers actually want, rather than what you say they want and you will have a higher satisfaction rating. Customers satisfaction is about actual satisfaction rather than airline perceived satisfaction, something their big wigs should look more closely.

    • MikeTastic says:

      No in-flight entertainment, no premium product and the free-for-all at boarding. That’s what is not to love about Southwest. It’s essentially like taking a flying Greyhound bus.

      But that is ok, since their target customer is the lesiure flyer. They’re not going after and will not attract the business flyer.

      • MikeTastic says:


        Edit button!!

      • jamar0303 says:

        In-flight entertainment is something I need on a multi-hour journey over the Pacific. Not a short intra-California flight or even a mid-con.

        Premium product? I thought businesses were cutting back these days?

        And not that free-for-all thing again. You get a place in line. Boarding IS done in an orderly fashion, and surprisingly enough, faster than the big airlines.

        And believe it or not, no change fees DOES appeal to businesses, and they ARE getting business travelers who are cutting back but don’t want to sacrifice too much comfort.

      • akiri423 says:

        They will make nasty remarks to you if you have cleavage, apparently.

  7. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I haven’t flown either of them. Apparently, my area is too small to be of any interest to Southwest, although Allegiant and several legacy airlines fly out of our airport. They could stomp Allegiant’s ass here, especially with them charging for carry-on bags now. But nooooooo.

  8. padarjohn says:

    No link?