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April 30, 2019, 1:41 p.m. EDT

This airline satisfies passengers the most

Alaska Airlines takes No. 1 as Southwest stumbles from the Boeing 737 Max controversy. Marriott, TripAdvisor top best hotels and travel sites

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By Nicole Lyn Pesce


Associated Press
Southwest Airlines dropped to third place in customer survey released Tuesday.

Alaska Airlines /zigman2/quotes/200972303/composite ALK +0.29% is flying high.

The carrier swooped into the top spot in the latest  American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Travel Report released on Tuesday, bumping up last year’s winner, Southwest Airlines /zigman2/quotes/201071949/composite LUV -0.77%  , which dropped into third place.

The annual ACSI report surveyed almost 13,000 travelers on metrics such as an airline’s on-time arrivals and departures, baggage handling and cleanliness, and then scored each carrier on a scale of 0 to 100. And passengers’ satisfaction with Alaska Airlines, which merged with Virgin America in 2016, jumped 1% over last year to hit a high ASCI of 80. (It should be noted that Alaska dropped to fourth place in the Airline Quality Rating report released earlier this month, after having placed second last year. Delta /zigman2/quotes/200327741/composite DAL +0.05%    took first.)

See: The No. 1 airline in America for performance

JetBlue /zigman2/quotes/207639051/composite JBLU +5.71%   and Southwest tied for second place with a score of 79; JetBlue’s score remained unchanged, but Southwest dropped 1% and lost its first-place finish from last year. The report blamed Southwest’s losses on the recent safety concerns surrounding the Boeing /zigman2/quotes/208579720/composite BA +2.30%   737 Max, as the airline had more 737 Max models in its fleet than any other airline.

“Recent deadly crashes of the Boeing 737 Max (for Ethiopian Airlines and Air Lion) have left Southwest particularly vulnerable to safety concerns,” the ACSI report noted, adding that 9,400 Southwest flights were canceled the first quarter due to safety concerns and/or bad weather. Indeed, Southwest lost more than $200 million in revenue during the first quarter, and has grounded its 34 737 Max aircraft through Aug. 5.

See also: Boeing defends safety record as federal investigators and Congress weigh information from whistleblowers

Overall passenger satisfaction with airlines is up 1.4% to a score of 75, with the ACSI reporting that this is a marked improvement. “Airlines sat at a near-record low of 62 just a dozen years ago,” said David VanAmburg, the ACSI managing director, in a statement . “Now they’re among some of the most improved industries over that time.”

Airlines including Delta, United /zigman2/quotes/205037281/composite UAL -0.94%  , Frontier    and Spirit /zigman2/quotes/205782179/composite SAVE -2.27%   also improved on this year’s list, while American Airlines /zigman2/quotes/209207041/composite AAL -1.71%   dropped 1% to land at 73, which is below the industry average. United improved 4% to reach 70, but is still stuck among the bottom three, with Frontier (score of 64) and Spirit (score of 63) taking the bottom two spots. Allegiant /zigman2/quotes/208507686/composite ALGT -0.11%   saw the biggest decline, dropping 4% to 71.

See also: Airbus profit up sharply; set to outpace Boeing

The ACSI also scored hotels and travel sites in its report — and it appears that customers are checking out of many traditional hotels. Guest satisfaction with hotels dropped 1.3% from last year, which the report credited to more people visiting Airbnb and other online accommodation brokers. “This is a transforming industry,” VanAmburg said. “If corporate hotels aren’t able to step up, they’re going to continue to slide.”

Hilton /zigman2/quotes/202780307/composite HLT -0.10%   and Marriott /zigman2/quotes/200170042/composite MAR -0.31%   tied for first place with a score of 80, although both brands dropped (2% and 1%, respectively) from last year’s satisfaction ranking. The ACSI credited both hotel groups with treating guests with upscale and luxury properties, higher-quality amenities and better customer service over other chains. Economy hotels like the Wyndham- /zigman2/quotes/206717710/composite WYND -0.29%  Days Inn and Super 8, as well as Choice Hotels’ /zigman2/quotes/202943946/composite CHH -1.35%   Econo Lodge and G6 Hospitality’s Motel 6 scored the lowest marks.

Finally, customers were most satisfied with TripAdvisor /zigman2/quotes/206118480/composite TRIP +2.70%   over any other travel site, followed by Expedia’s /zigman2/quotes/202291990/composite EXPE +0.91%   Orbit. But Travelocity (also owned by Expedia) took the biggest hit, dropping 4%, with Priceline, owned by Booking Holdings Inc. /zigman2/quotes/203576210/composite BKNG +0.29%  , at the bottom after a 3% drop.

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