Travelers rated hotels nearly 3% higher than last year.

The annual American Customer Satisfaction Index that came out this week shows that guest satisfaction with hotels has increased, while passenger satisfaction with airlines has declined in the last year.


Travelers rated hotels nearly 3% higher than last year in the American Customer Satisfaction Index, which measures travelers’ satisfaction with products and services during the first quarter of each year.

On a scale of zero to 100, travelers gave hotels an average score of 77.

Low rates and more perks such as free Wi-Fi and upgraded exercise facilities have increased satisfaction, says Claes Fornell, founder of the index, which this year surveyed 2,250 hotel guests and 1,750 airline passengers.

But the rates and perks haven’t made guests more loyal.

“Price-induced satisfaction tends to make people shop around for the best deal rather than promote loyalty,” Fornell says.

Hilton received the highest average satisfaction score, 80, and Marriott and Starwood tied for second at 79. It’s the third-consecutive year Hilton had the highest score or tied for the top score in the survey.

Airlines didn’t fare as well. Their average satisfaction score dropped to 65 from 66 last year. Passengers who were surveyed pointed to airline mergers, increased fees for bags and other services, and rising airfares from higher jet fuel prices as reasons for discontent.

“Airline mergers typically have a destructive effect on passenger satisfaction,” Fornell says.

Delta Air Lines, which acquired Northwest Airlines in 2008, scored lowest, with an average score of 56, 10% lower than its score last year.

Southwest Airlines received the highest satisfaction score, 81, the highest score for an airline since 1994, the baseline year of the index.

Though Southwest’s in-flight services “are fairly minimal, its overall service is viewed quite favorably,” Fornell says.

Switching flights on Southwest is easy and usually without cost to passengers, and the airline “seems to have a knack for knowing when to charge additional fees and when not to add to its customers’ cost,” Fornell says. Southwest doesn’t charge for checked bags.

Southwest, which has finished or tied for first among airlines every year in the survey, has had its merger with AirTran approved and is only starting to combine operations.

Among other survey findings:

•Giving airlines their lowest score since 2008, business travelers are less satisfied than vacationers. Leisure travelers gave airlines an average satisfaction score of 64, three points more than business travelers.

•Passengers who pay for checked bags are much less satisfied with airlines than passengers who don’t pay for checked bags.

•Hotel guests at upscale hotel chains are more satisfied than those at budget hotels.

•Smaller hotel brands — including small hotel and motel chains, individual luxury hotels and bed-and-breakfasts — had their satisfaction score increase 4% to 77, the largest percentage increase among hotel segments.

Photo credit:  JD Powers

Via USA Today