May 01, 2024

Customer Satisfaction With Airlines Reaches All-Time High, as Travel Industry Rebounds to Prepandemic Levels, ACSI® Data Show

If last year’s industrywide customer satisfaction improvement pointed to the travel industry returning to normal, then this year’s marks confirm it: Travel is back!

Satisfaction across airlines, lodging, car rentals, and online travel agencies climbs again, returning to prepandemic levels, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI®) Travel Study 2023-2024. The airline industry stands out, hitting an all-time customer satisfaction high of 77 after a second straight 1% year-over year improvement.

“Airline customer satisfaction has climbed to new heights, reaching scores not seen even before the pandemic disrupted travel,” says Forrest Morgeson, Associate Professor of Marketing at Michigan State University and Director of Research Emeritus at the ACSI. “Carriers have bounced back strongly, showing that innovations and service improvements implemented during the last two years have resonated with customers.”

Alaska leads the way as airline industry hits all-time high

Alaska leads the way for the second consecutive year, increasing 1% to an ACSI score of 82. American is second, up 1% to 79.

Low-cost carriers Allegiant (up 4% to 78), Frontier (up 3% to 69), and Spirit (up 5% to 67) make the biggest ACSI gains as they crank up their value propositions, but only Allegiant avoids sitting at the low end of the industry, finishing in third place.

United is the only carrier to lose ground, slipping 3% to an ACSI score of 75.

Industry scores generally appear to have been buoyed by large increases in airline staffing levels since their pandemic lows. This is reflected in score improvements industrywide for staff-driven aspects of the customer experience such as check-in (83) and boarding (81), cabin cleanliness (82), and staff courtesy (81). These are particularly notable for budget carriers, who see large increases in scores for staff-related benchmarks.

Hilton hits all the right notes for your lodging experience

After suffering a 15-year ACSI low in 2022, guest satisfaction with lodging bounces back for a second straight year, surging 3% to a score of 77. Hilton (up 3%) also shows two years of solid gains, moving into first place at 81. Despite slipping 1%, Marriott sits in second with an ACSI score of 79.

Airbnb debuts with an above-average ACSI score of 78, proving that its customer experience can compete with major hotel chains that offer a range of business and upscale options such as IHG (up 3% to 78) and Hyatt (down 3% to 78). Meanwhile, Wyndham slumps 3% year over year to finish alone in last place at 70.

Among lodging brands, Hilton reigns supreme, with Hampton, Hilton Garden Inn, and Hilton Hotels & Resorts all at 82. On the flip side, Marriott’s Aloft Hotels and Wyndham’s Baymont and Wyndham Hotels & Resorts are at the bottom with ACSI scores of 74.

Gains across the lodging customer experience reflect a return to normal operations and improved staffing levels, as well as the adoption of technology advancements like contactless check-ins introduced during the pandemic.

National is the new standard among car rentals

Customer satisfaction with car rentals, up 1% to 77, continues to rise from a low point in 2022 as demand stabilizes and companies upgrade their IT infrastructures to better manage fleets and provide more frictionless experiences for customers.

National races to the top of the industry — and into the top 10 of all companies measured — after surging 8% to an ACSI score of 84. The company substantially improves its mobile app quality and reliability and leads the field for complaint resolution.

Last year’s leader Alamo tumbles 6% into a second-place tie with Avis (down 3%) and Hertz (up 3%) at 78, while Enterprise drops 3% to the industry average score of 77. At the lower end, Dollar is stable at 75, the smaller rental companies climb 4% to 74, and last-place Budget stumbles 4% to an ACSI score of 73.

For the industry overall, staff courtesy improves for both pick-up (81) and drop-off (82), although budget brands trail the industry leaders in this area.

Rideshare industry debuts with Lyft and Uber all square

New to ACSI measurement in 2024, the rideshare industry debuts with two major competitors, Lyft and Uber, deadlocked with customer satisfaction scores of 76. Both exhibit strong scores for app use and ride quality.

However, lagging customer perceptions of value are putting downward pressure on satisfaction. This is likely related to price increases as rideshare companies shift from market-share acquisition strategies to generating profits. bests other online travel agencies

Online travel agencies inch up 1% to an ACSI score of 77., the most visited travel and tourism website worldwide, assumes the lead after a 3% increase to an ACSI score of 80, remaining well ahead of other Booking Holdings brands — Priceline (up 4% to 76) and Kayak (unchanged at 73).

A steady Expedia comes in second place with a score of 79, followed by the smaller online travel agencies (down 1%) and Travelocity (up 4%) at 78 apiece.

Despite improving 3%, Orbitz, like Kayak, is last with an ACSI score of 73.

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