Consumer Reports names best, worst airlines

Nearly 15,000 readers rate the carriers they love and hate.

By Kim Peterson Jun 22, 2011 1:24PM
Airline fees are really starting to get on passengers' nerves.

That's the takeaway from the latest airline survey from Consumer Reports. Nearly 15,000 readers rated the top airlines, and the one that charged significantly fewer fees was the strong winner.

Southwest (LUV) topped the list, with a rating of 87, getting top marks for easy check-in, good service, clean cabins and baggage handling. Southwest might have nailed that last category because it's the only airline that lets you check two bags with no extra charges, Consumer Reports says. Additional bags cost $50 each.

You can hear more about Consumer Reports' survey in the following video.

Post continues below:
Second place went to JetBlue (JBLU), the only airline to beat Southwest in seating comfort. JetBlue's coach seats are spaced 32 to 38 inches in front of each other, more than the 31-inch industry norm, Consumer Reports says. People also like JetBlue's fancy-schmancy in-flight entertainment system.Image: Airplane at gate (© Brand X/Jupiterimages)

Last place went to US Airways (LCC), which got the worst ratings of all for cabin-crew service. US Airways was the bottom-scoring airline in 2007, the last time Consumer Reports did an airline survey. Hey, at least it's consistent.

US Airways is the sixth-largest airline but had the third-highest bag-fee revenue last year, with $514 million.

All of this makes me wonder whether Southwest really has the right strategy here with regards to no luggage and flight-change fees. That policy has inspired intense loyalty and customer satisfaction, and Southwest has been able to raise airfares several times this year without much pushback.

For some airlines, luggage and flight-change fees are the only thing keeping them above water in a year when fuel costs have skyrocketed. But how many customers are getting turned off? It's a risky move with short-term gain and long-term consequences.

VIDEO ON MSN MONEY

6Comments
Jun 26, 2011 12:48AM
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American Airlines:  A few days ago, I completed a flight from Panama City to Seattle; the complicating factor was taking my dog.  That in itself is amajor complication with all airlines except Alaska in my experience. 

It starts with people at the check in counter who give you all sorts of information that is inconsistant with their web site info, and inconsistant with the other employees.  The phony and totally iconsistant info was so extensive, there is not room to relate it all here.

In PTY, a woman I choose to call Adolph H. the lead agent, totally barred me because the tempurature in Miami was going to be 90 when landing, 6 degrees more than permitted for a pet, but she rebooked me for a flght 7  hours later at which time it was 91 on landing.  I could not help but notice that the flight I actually took was nearly empty, while the one I had originally been booked on had a huge number of people checking in.

 

My carefully planned trip scheduled from 0800 to 1030 (14.5 hours) in one day took 41 hours instead. 

 

At this point, I'm pretty certain they used the dog and temp as an excuse to bump me from an overbooked flight.  I will have to say, that the ticket agent in Miami was very helpfull in rearranging the itinerary down to tne 41 hours, as the Panama City agent had me on standby at all landing points. 

I will not again fly American Airlines, and am looking for a good attorney.

 

 

Jun 25, 2011 10:14PM
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United Airlines. Rude flight attendants, with a few exceptions, the food is horrible, they charge for the drink on overseas flights, while all the others don't. Checking in and out of the States is the most horrible and humiliating experience any human being can ever have and I can go on an on. I truly hope they will go out of business like all the others that behave the same way. They truly deserve it.

 

Jun 25, 2011 5:54AM
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Although the service is good for SWA, their fares are usually not.  I watch and shop for fares carefully over time and have found that there are, more often than not, other airlines that are cheaper - even adding the extra amount for extra leg room.  I do not, however, in all fareness, check bags - even when I fly SWA a lot of times. I have learned to travel light so that I can just

be ready to run when the cabin door opens.  Knock on wood, I have had no problems with United or US Air and have been fortunate to have dealt with customer service reps who were friendly, polite, and willing to help.  The down side was when I once goofed on the date of a return flight and did have to pay the change fee (OUCH).  I believe it is in how people treat people that makes the difference and have never taken my frustration out on the airline personnel (the problems often lie at a higher level, they are just the pawns).  Sometimes the horror stories I read are unbelieveable.  I have been very fortunate and hope I will continue to be. 

Jun 26, 2011 1:33PM
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Flew Bus/First class on United from Las Vegas to Chicago, this past Friday.  The new meal service was terrible.  The service in Bus/First was good, but airlines are no longer in the business of trying to please their customers-just get em on and off the bus.  I've flown almost 2mm miles, accrued more than 8mm FF miles. The more I fly this airline the more the decline in all facets of on-time, cleanliness and safety just seem to be spiraling downward. Service, however, is perfunctorily good, just 50% fewer people serving twice the number of people.  Nothing personal, just the way it is.  The infrequent flyer doesn't stand a chance!
Jul 12, 2011 10:02AM
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I never fly USeless Airways anymore with the exception of  flights to Charlotte.  I am a frequent flyer based in Phoenix and always fly Southwest Airlines.

Southwest: It's time you bring the Southwest effect to CLT !!! 

Jun 25, 2011 9:36PM
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They don't call it SOUTHWORST for no reaon!
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