US Airways scores lowest in consumer survey

Posted: May 10, 2011

US Airways, the dominant carrier at Philadelphia International Airport, scored the worst of 10 major airlines in a new customer survey by Consumer Reports.

Uncomfortable seats and excessive fees are the top gripes of air travelers, and a reason many said they are flying less, according to the survey results released Tuesday.

Southwest Airlines Co. and JetBlue Airways, topped the ratings on comfort and extra fees.

In a separate report Tuesday by the U.S. Transportation Department, US Airways fared better - ranking second in on-time arrivals, first in baggage performance, and second in customer satisfaction among five major airlines.

US Airways was at the bottom based on responses from 14,861 Consumer Reports subscribers taken between January 2010 and January 2011. The survey covered 29,720 domestic round-trip flights.

The 10 airlines were scored based on overall satisfaction, check-in ease, cabin-crew service, cabin cleanliness, baggage handling, seating comfort and in-flight entertainment.

Consumer Reports also asked questions about charging fees for checked bags, choice seats, and pillows and blankets.

Discount carrier Southwest, Philadelphia's second busiest carrier, and JetBlue, which does not fly out of Philadelphia International Airport, had the best scores for overall satisfaction.

Southwest was the only airline to receive top marks for check-in ease and the cabin-crew service. Passengers also gave Southwest high marks for cabin cleanliness and baggage handling. The survey was conducted before Southwest's problems in April with cracks in several of its Boeing 737 planes.

JetBlue was the only airline to earn top scores for in-flight entertainment - its seat back television screens offer passengers 36 channels.

Eight of the 10 major airlines rated by Consumer Reports' readers received low marks for seat comfort.

US Airways ranked last in its overall score, the same unenviable spot it held in Consumer Reports' last airline report in 2007. Survey respondents gave US Airways the worst marks of any airline for cabin-crew service.

Consumer Reports is just one organization offering an airline-by-airline rating.

In the Transportation Department's monthly Air Travel Consumer Report, US Airways in March ranked second in on-time arrivals, first in baggage performance, and second in customer satisfaction among large U.S. airlines, including United, American, Delta and Continental.

The proliferation of added fees at, or after, check-in by many carriers contributes to passengers' low opinion of flying, and even to their decision of whether to fly at all, the magazine said. Forty percent of those polled said they were flying less, and they cited increased fees as the major reason - more than flight delays, poor service, or any other reason.

"What we found is that paying fewer additional fees generally translates into a passenger having higher overall satisfaction with an airline," said Mark Kotkin, a director of survey research at Consumer Reports.

Low-cost airlines took the five top spots, while traditional large network airlines ranked at the bottom of the Consumer Reports' rankings.

Airlines were scored on a zero to 100 scale:

1. Southwest - 87

2. JetBlue - 84

3. Alaska - 79

4. Frontier - 78

5. AirTran - 74

6. Continental - 72

7. American - 65

8. Delta - 64

9. United - 63

10. US Airways - 61


Contact staff writer Linda Loyd at 215-854-2831 or lloyd@phillynews.com.

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