The U.S. Airlines and Hotels Consumers Love Most

Alaska Airlines ousted Southwest, and luxury brand JW Marriott took the top spot among hotels, a recent customer satisfaction report revealed.

The U.S. Airlines and Hotels Consumers Love Most

JW Marriott got the highest score among individual hotel brands.

Photo by Sorbis/Shutterstock

In the battle for most popular airline, Alaska Airlines edged out Southwest and JetBlue this year, according to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Travel Report, which was released this week.

The report is based on email interviews with 12,870 customers conducted between April 5, 2018, and March 27, 2019. In it, airlines, hotels, online travel booking sites, and their services in general are ranked on a scale of 1 to 100.

Customers placed Alaska at the top of the airline rankings, with an ACSI score of 80, up from 79 in 2018. Last year, Southwest topped the list with a score of 80, but this year Southwest dipped to second place with a score of 79. JetBlue tied for second place both years with a consistent score of 79.

The report’s authors concluded that Alaska has benefitted from its merger with Virgin America, which was finalized last year, resulting in an expanded network of flights and lower airfares for Alaska passengers.

Former favorite Southwest has faced some headwinds of late, according to ACSI, including the fact that it has more Boeing 737 Max models in its fleet than any other airline—aircraft the Federal Aviation Administration grounded after both Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air experienced deadly Boeing 737 Max crashes. The federally mandated order has resulted in numerous cancellations for all carriers with Boeing 737 Max aircraft.

Delta remained in the top spot among legacy carriers with a score of 75 (up one point from last year), followed by American, which dipped one point to 73, and United with a score of 70 (up three points from last year’s score).

ACSI’s 2019 Airline Rankings (and Scores)

  1. Alaska (80)
  2. JetBlue (79)
  3. Southwest (79)
  4. Delta (75)
  5. American (73)
  6. Allegiant (71)
  7. United (70)
  8. Frontier (64)
  9. Spirit (63)

When it came to carriers’ services, airline mobile apps and ease of check-in (which both had a score of 82) got top marks, followed by boarding experience (79), call center satisfaction, and cabin cleanliness (both 78). The lowest marks went to the availability and size of overhead storage, as well as food options (73 each) and in-flight entertainment (71). The list bottomed out with seat comfort (69). Why are we not surprised?

Hotels are slipping

Overall guest satisfaction with hotels dropped to a score of 75, down from 76 last year, according to the ACSI report. Hilton and Marriott topped the list as the leading hotel companies, but their score of 80 (each) was a drop from 82 and 81 last year, respectively. Hyatt maintained its place in third as well as its score of 79.

As for individual hotel brands, the luxury JW Marriott hotels topped the list with an ACSI score of 84. That was followed by Hilton’s Embassy Suites (known for its two-room suites and included breakfasts) and Marriott’s Fairfield Inn & Suites, which tied at 83, and then Hilton Garden Inn with a score of 82.

Hilton’s Embassy Suites came in right behind the JW Marriott brand.

Hilton’s Embassy Suites came in right behind the JW Marriott brand.

Photo by Matthew Corley/Shutterstock

ACSI’s 2019 Hotel Rankings (and Scores)

  1. JW Marriott (84)
  2. Embassy Suites (83)
  3. Fairfield Inn & Suites (83)
  4. Hilton Garden Inn (82)
  5. Marriott Hotels (81)
  6. Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts (81)
  7. Courtyard (81)
  8. Best Western Premier (81)
  9. Holiday Inn Express (80)
  10. Hampton (79)
  11. Hilton Hotels & Resorts (79)
  12. AC Hotels (79)
  13. Residence Inn (79)
  14. Hyatt Regency (79)
  15. DoubleTree (78)
  16. Best Western (77)
  17. Best Western Plus (77)
  18. Sheraton (77)
  19. Hyatt Place (77)
  20. Wyndham Hotels and Resorts (76)
  21. Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites (76)
  22. Westin (76)
  23. Holiday Inn (75)
  24. La Quinta Inns & Suites (74)
  25. Quality (73)
  26. Baymont (72)
  27. Ramada (71)
  28. Days Inn (68)
  29. Econo Lodge (67)
  30. Super 8 (65)
  31. Motel 6 (63)

Hotel services have slumped in the eyes of guests, too. The ease of making a reservation and the ease of check-in topped the list of services (each at 84), but both scores were down (from 85 and 86, respectively) compared to last year. Courtesy and helpfulness of staff dipped to a score of 82 from 84, and room cleanliness and comfort fell to 81 from 82. In fact, every single service dipped save for in-room entertainment, which held steady with a score of 76 year over year.
TripAdvisor debuts at the top

While customer satisfaction with hotels was down, travel booking sites saw their overall score increase to 79, up from 78 last year. TripAdvisor, which wasn’t on the list last year, debuted in the lead with an ACSI score of 82.

ACSI’s 2019 Internet Travel Site Rankings (and Scores)

  1. TripAdvisor (82)
  2. Orbitz (81)
  3. Expedia (79)
  4. Travelocity (77)
  5. Priceline (76)

What do people love most about online booking sites? The quality of their mobile apps, which received a score of 85, followed by ease of bookings and payment, with a score of 84.
>> Next: The Best Airline Lounges in the United States

Michelle Baran is a deputy editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
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