Published on Thursday, May 17, 2007

US travelers rank IRS over airlines

The bad news just gets worse for US airlines: The often-reviled IRS ranks higher than they do, says a customer satisfaction survey.

"If a company has a score close to the IRS' score, something is awfully wrong," said Claes Fornell, the study director.

US airlines’ scored 63 out of a possible 100 on the University of Michigan's Customer Satisfaction Index. That was just below the 65 awarded to the bureaucracy-laden US Internal Revenue Service.

The airlines' score -- down two points from last year -- was the lowest for the industry since 2001.

Hotels scored 71, falling four points to the lowest level since 2002, according to the survey.

The university's American Customer Satisfaction Index surveys about 20,000 people every quarter by phone, focusing on different industries each time.

The poor performance from US airlines may make it easier for newcomers such as Virgin American and Skybus to win over customers, suggested various experts.

United Airlines, which came out of bankruptcy last year, was at the bottom, falling 7 points to 56. Delta Air Lines was close behind, falling 5 points to 59.

No-frills discount carrier Southwest Airlines led the industry with a score of 76, two points higher than the previous year.

While large companies in the airline sector scored poorer on the survey, big hotel companies fared a little better.

Marriott, the top US hotel operator, increased its score 2 points to 79, while smaller chains dragged down the industry's overall score.

Report by David Wilkening

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