Released in October, the Annual Airline Survey helps travelers wade through the positives and negatives of the five largest domestic airlines. Published by Business Travel News (BTN), the report polls 406 travel managers and buyers who spend more than $500,000 a year on flights booked in the U.S.
To decide airline rankings, BTN uses 10 categories, including price value, flexibility in negotiation of prices, complaint resolution and customer service.
1.) Delta Airlines
BTN awarded Delta with the top ranking for the first time in the survey’s history. The airline ranked first in five of the 10 categories, such as complaint/problem resolution and quality of communications.
Delta bought Northwest Air in 2008, which made it the largest airline at that time. Acquiring other airlines can hurt airlines with customer service and reservation issues, however according to the survey, it seems that Delta has straightened these issues out. According to the report, “Flexibility in structuring transient and meetings pricing helped Delta clinch a first-place finish over United.”
2.) United Airlines/Continental
United ranked first last year, but drops to second this year partially due to United and Continental’s merger in 2010. In three categories, United still ranked first, including quality of customer service. The company also recently restructured its frequent flier program to add more perks for business travelers.
3.) US Airways
Though it scored fifth in 2010, US Airways moved up to third place this year. According to BTN, this was largely due to more accommodating practices by the airline. The carrier ranked highest in the value of relationships with account managers and overall price value.
Though US Airways cannot compete with the overseas capacity of larger airlines, its advantage lies in its membership in the Star Alliance. This membership allows the airline to extend its routes to 160 nations using alliances with partnering airlines.
4.) American Airlines
American Airlines’ ratings declined in every category this year with the more significant decreases in buyers’ perceptions of the value of its network and partnerships, quality of communications, and availability of distribution channels. The company ranked second in 2010, but has fallen in rank partially because of troubled finances. American Airlines plans to retire 11 of its 737 airplanes, as well as suspend operations on several routes.
Southwest’s claim to fame often lies in positive customer satisfaction surveys, friendly customer service and free checked bags. BTN believes that the carrier’s purchase of rival Airtran earlier in the year might have hurt the airlines’ service record. Southwest fell to last or second-to-last ranking in all but one category. Distribution channels and flexibility categories ranked especially low for the company.
For more information, visit the MSNBC article.