Which Airline Ranks No. 1 In Customer Service? The Rankings Are Here

Which airline gives you the best customer service? I'll give you a hint: The answer isn't any of the major "legacy" carriers. (Shocker, I know.)

Mega-carriers US Airways (NYSE: LCC  ) , American (still owned by AMR), and United (now part of United Continental (NYSE: UAL  ) may be some of the biggest airlines in the country, but according to a recent survey conducted by Airfarewatchdogthey're far from the best, ranking eighth, ninth, and 10th on the consumer advocate's list of the Top 10 carriers.

Even Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL  ) sports only a sixth-place rating on Airfarewatchdog's list. And Southwest's (NYSE: LUV  ) two brands -- Southwest proper and AirTran -- bracket Delta in fifth and seventh places, respectively.

No, when it comes to providing top-level service for getting planes to arrive on time, running flights instead of canceling them, delivering baggage and passengers to their intended destination, and overall customer satisfaction, the No. 1 airline in the nation is Frontier Airlines, a subsidiary of Republic Airways (NASDAQ: RJET  ) .

Here's how the rankings stack up, from top to bottom:

Airline

Rank

Frontier

1st Place

Virgin America 

2nd Place

JetBlue

3rd Place

Alaska

4th Place

Southwest

5th Place

Delta

6th Place

AirTran

7th Place

US Airways

8th Place

American

9th Place

United

10th Place 


How did Frontier Airlines earn "best in show"?

Digging into the details on Airfarewatchdog's multiple surveys, which add up to the overall results shown above, the results do seem a bit curious.

Frontier actually doesn't rank No. 1 in any of the subcategories examined. It's not No. 1 in uncanceled flights (that's Virgin America), or in on-time arrivals (Alaska Air holds that honor). Frontier's not the best in baggage handling, denied boardings, or customer satisfaction, either. Top marks in these categories go to Virgin, JetBlue, and JetBlue (again), respectively.

Yet according to Airfarewatchdog, Frontier does a good enough job in each individual category to make it the best airline to fly, overall.

Maybe that's why when it comes to picking "feeder" regional airlines to supply them, even the majors turn to Frontier's own parent company, Republic, to connect them with passengers aboard brands American Eagle, US Airways Express, and United Express.

Apparently, good enough for them is also good enough for us.


 

Read/Post Comments (18) | Recommend This Article (13)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2013, at 11:20 AM, TourLooper wrote:

    I fly a lot and I prefer Southwest and Virgin. Jet Blue and Alaska are a joke. United is not as bad as their rap.

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2013, at 11:24 AM, mmuscs wrote:

    You would think the "major" airlines would take notice of this, but they just don't care.

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2013, at 12:25 PM, John95035 wrote:

    I work in the industry for a legacy carrier. I think these ratings are always misguided. If you're a premium class passenger and fly a premium cabin you're treated very well and the service is excellent because that's where the airline makes its money.

    Economy class, mmucss is correct, no one cares. The service is awful but the planes are always packed. Why is that? Because the market defines the product. Fixing broken video systems, fixing seats, paying employees more than they made in 1986 all costs money.

    The economy class passenger generally goes the net and buys the cheapest fare. They're not loyal to any brand, they're looking for a bargain. Bargain fares do not bring in profitability so the focus is on premium passengers and cargo. It's just the way it is.

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2013, at 1:05 PM, John95035 wrote:

    I work in the industry for a legacy carrier. I think these ratings are always misguided. If you're a premium class passenger and fly a premium cabin you're treated very well and the service is excellent because that's where the airline makes its money.

    Economy class, mmucss is correct, no one cares. The service is awful but the planes are always packed. Why is that? Because the market defines the product. Fixing broken video systems, fixing seats, paying employees more than they made in 1986 all costs money.

    The economy class passenger generally goes the net and buys the cheapest fare. They're not loyal to any brand, they're looking for a bargain. Bargain fares do not bring in profitability so the focus is on premium passengers and cargo. It's just the way it is.

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2013, at 2:23 PM, jackmacspatt wrote:

    United sucks, I hate them, from booking to flight attendants to ticket takers, they act like they are doing you a favor. Can't wait til Southwest starts flying to Mexico.

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2013, at 2:24 PM, JWS1978 wrote:

    United is without question THE WORST airline in the U.S. Their customer service is horrid!

    Example from a flight this year:

    We were told after we boarded the plane that we would be delayed for "about 5 minutes" due to missing paperwork. We sat on the play for about an hour and 15 minutes. We were told "sorry for the extended delay" about 45 minutes into it.

    On the same flight, water starting pouring down onto the passenger sitting next to me for some unknown reason - literally water was like seeping from the outside of the play on coming down on the guy next to me. It was a significant amount of water. We were in the last row, directly next to an attendant who happened to see the water coming down. She hands the guy two cocktail napkins and walks away. That was the last time he was checked on. I was more angry than the passenger that got wet.

    And don't forget the club lounge that costs an individual $500 a year to access. Nice to know that the airline that has the most airline-caused delays and cancellations in the world won't allow you access to their club lounge for less than $500/yr.

    HORRIBLE AIRLINE! IF YOU CAN AVOID IT - STAY AWAY!

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2013, at 4:03 PM, rjsbr7 wrote:

    My dad passed away last week and when I called the United customer service, the attendant was very rude, with plenty of attitude for no reason. As the icying on the cake, she simply said that there was no seat available that day. After that call, I went online and found seats available from Chicago, Houston and DC to Sao Paulo, my destination. And this year I'm putting almost 80,000 miles...! They need a dictionary to understand what words such as "custumer service" and "premier" mean.

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2013, at 6:54 PM, salpl88 wrote:

    Southwest quality goes downhill after Herb Kelleher retired. They have started to nickel dime passengers. Now, they're thinking of imposing luggage fee like other airlines!

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2013, at 7:37 PM, scottloar wrote:

    Which airline ranks no. 1 in customer service? None of these USA carriers. No, not a one of them is anywhere near the top among international carriers, and US customers are the worse for it. Convenience in getting to and from the airport and checking in, courtesy extended to passengers, cleanliness of facilities and modernity of aircraft - these common qualities are foreign to domestic travelers on US carriers.

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2013, at 8:23 PM, willy1514 wrote:

    The world's best airline is Singapore.

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2013, at 8:55 PM, laguardia wrote:

    I bought a round trip ticket fr FORT LAUDERDALE to LA GUARDIA I checked my hand carry bag coz I thought that was big paid 45 bucks and go on with my trip upon returning to FT LADERDALE last Thursday im having a good time in NEW YORK for 4 days hangover by the time I checked in I didn't notice the BANNER hang in B6 stating we have to check in our hand carry luggag

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2013, at 9:02 PM, laguardia wrote:

    im glad SPIRIT didn't make the list im one of those millions of passenger they robbed they penalized me for not checking my hand carry luggage they charge $100 bucks thinking there PLANE was delayed for 3 hrs and they have the guts to EXTORT MONEY fr me and the WOMAN who took my money was RUDE HER VOICE WAS INTIMIDATING maybe because im ASIAN FILIPINO I saw a lot of black and white people carrying the same size but they didn't get penalize BTW her employee number was SPIRIT AIRLINES AGENT 63342 NEVER IN MY LIFE I WILL PATRONIZE THAT AIRLINE they are discriminating the passenger......

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2013, at 9:12 PM, laguardia wrote:

    this a continuation the AGENT NO OF SPIRIT AIRLINE WHO PENALIZED ME FOR NOT checking in my luggage her AGENT NO 63342 what in the world u penalized a passenger for not reading your BANNER u should have people there in the airport reminding people to check in there luggage not extorting money fr them the way that woman address me is by intimidation she told me to go back all the way to the check in counter AND FR HER WORDS IM AFRAID YOU COULD MAKE IT there PLANE has been DELAYED for 3hrs and they have the GALL to take my$ 100 for me its RUDE MEAN and BUSINESS ETHICS is not in there AGENDA there main focus is PROFIT PROFIT AND BIG PROFIT..to MANAGEMENT OF SPIRIT AIRLINES your AGENT 63342 is not an ASSET in your COMPANY she is like what we call in PHILIPPINES KOTONG COPS PREYING HELPLESS INNOCENT VICTIMS TAKING THERE HARD EARNED MONEY im just a low paid SERVER working in the cheapest restaurant here in CORAL GABLES MIAMI

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2013, at 9:44 PM, ScamuelJones wrote:

    American and United are both POS airlines who will cheat you out of your frequent flier miles and then have their employees lie to you about it.

    Delta is also a POS airline who charges our returning military heroes hundreds of dollars in excessive baggage fees when the returning Afghanistan military men and women have no choice to bring back the excess baggage as ordered by the military! AVOID Delta, American, and United--ALL POS airlines who screw over their customers every chance they get!

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2013, at 10:37 PM, Mega wrote:

    Having dealt with American a fair amount, the fact that there are actually worse airlines than American is horrifying.

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2013, at 10:52 PM, Tamarindwalk wrote:

    I would agree, but would put Virgin America at the top of the list because of its comfortable and reasonable first class service.

    The legacy carriers have gone over the hill, so to say. Their service is the pits. The seat pitch is too tight. The planes are often dirty. And at times the crew look as though they've just gotten out of bed. They need to clean up their act.

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2013, at 7:45 AM, AcuraT wrote:

    Comparing Frontier to Southwest and Delta is a joke. Frontier has one hub in Denver, and is tiny compared to the other airlines. I know they have to compare everyone to everyone, but when the airlines are that different in size - it make it hard to take this seriously. As it stands, if you need to go anywhere in the USA, your best bets are Southwest and Delta - that is my takeaway.

  • Report this Comment On January 24, 2014, at 7:21 PM, meh wrote:

    I've flown on a lot of airlines and by far the worst "customer service" I've seen and experienced is on American Airlines. After my last encounter being verbally abused and insulted by counter staff for simply asking directions to a gate, I have never flown with them again. I never will. It costs nothing to be polite to paying customers. AA deserves to go out of business to other airlines, like Virgin, who still train their staff to be polite and respectful to paying customers.

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