We didn’t need another survey to tell us that customer satisfaction had fallen to a new low in the travel industry. But we got one, anyway.
The American Customer Satisfaction Index reported this morning that the major airlines had recorded their their lowest scores since 2001, and that the major hotel chains weren’t much better. Just the kind of news we needed before the start of the busy summer vacation season.
Continental Airlines and US Airways suffer the largest nosedives. Continental’s score plummets 10% to 62, while US Airways falls 12% to 54. The four airlines at the bottom of the industry are also in various stages of merger talks. United Airlines, which scored 56 for a second consecutive year, is contemplating a merger with US Airways. Northwest (-7% to 57) and Delta (+2% to 60) recently announced that they are going to merge.
“When it comes to mergers, combining two negatives doesn’t make a positive,” said Claes Fornell, founder of the index, in a prepared statement. “Passenger satisfaction is dismal, and things probably won’t get any better if airlines continue to charge more for less.”
Oh, really? And you needed a survey to tell you that?
It’s obvious that most mainstream media reporters who were offered a sneak preview of these results didn’t bother to examine the raw numbers.
Otherwise, they would have immediately noticed the precipitous fall from the first year in which ACSI scores had been reported. US Airways, down 25 percent. Delta Air Lines, down 22 percent. United Airlines, down 21 percent. They might have looked past the press release and asked hard questions about the demise of customer service in the airline business. There are plenty of hard questions to ask.
Although the story was slightly better in the hotel industry, there’s not much to celebrate.
The hotel industry ties an all-time high after improving 6% to 75. Much of the gain can be attributed to the “all others” category, which leaps 9% to 76 and includes smaller budget hotel chains and luxury resorts.
This is a double shame. Not only did most mainstream news outlets completely ignore the hotel results — maybe they read the words “all-time high” and thought there wasn’t a story there — they apparently also failed to look at the actual numbers.
If they had, my MSM friends would have seen the significant slide of brands like Best Western (down 5.4 percent from the beginning of the survey). They would have noticed that there’s really not enough data to make an informed decision about many other brands, including Wyndham, InterContinental and Starwood. And they would have taken note that 75 out of 100 is a letter grade of “C,” which is not very good.
I have no reason to doubt the ACSI numbers. In fact, they state the obvious.
My problem is the way in which ACSI’s publicists at Kearns & West leaked the results of this survey to an obsequious press corps, which uncritically regurgitated the spin it put on its own numbers.
When that happens, the biggest losers aren’t just the major airlines and hotels. You are, too.