Southwest Provides Best Airline Customer Experience

This post examines the nine airlines included in the 2012 Temkin Experience Ratings.

Southwest Airlines earned the top spot in the industry and received the only “good” rating.  AirTran Airways was ranked second in the industry and earned a rating of “okay” along with JetBlue Airlines and Alaska Airlines. The remaining five airlines earned poor ratings, with US Airways and American Airlines at the bottom.

The overall airline industry, on average, earned the 12th spot out of 18 industries. The industry made a modest improvement in its overall customer experience ratings between 2011 and 2012. Led by AirTran AirwaysSouthwest Airlines, and United Airways, five of the eight airlines that were included in both studies showed some improvement. Continental Airlines and American Airlines had the largest declines since last year.

Do you want to see the data? Go to the Temkin Ratings website where you can sort through all of the results for free. You can even purchase the underlying data if you want to get more access.

The bottom line: There’s a long way to go across the airline industry

Written by 

I am an experience management transformist, helping organizations improve business results by engaging the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, and partners. My "job" is Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute. The Institute is still being established, but our goal is to help organizations around the world thrive by mastering Experience Management (XM). As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. Prior to joining Qualtrics, I was managing partner of Temkin Group (leading CX research, advisory, and training firm), co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (, and a VP at Forrester Research. I'm a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Check out my LinkedIn profile:

2 thoughts on “Southwest Provides Best Airline Customer Experience”

  1. These results are consistent with my experience. Several of these companies do themselves harm by creating/enforcing anti-customer policies. Here’s an example of a policy that prohibited me from paying a change fee to take the earlier flight.

    And here’s a misguided example of service differentiation. Did 1st class flyers really flock to the airline with the carpet? Is this the best the airlines can come up with?

    1. Absolutely Southwest is the best. I travel for business and I LOVE THESE GUYs. I hardly ever have to call them, their site is so easy to use and when I do have to call – wow they answer their phones. Quickly. With a US person. Here’s my latest experience – trying to get my son and daughter FF tickets to travel with my husband to San Diego this July 4th from the DC area. I have a FF on United, one on US Air, one on Delta. Couldn’t find a single ticket within 25K miles even 4 months out. I thought I was out of SW mileage, but I wasn’t. Even using their new mileage FF system I managed to get round trip tickets (at least one and 1/2) within 20 minutes. Spent over 90 minutes poking around the other sites with no success. AND, even though they just changed their policy about ticketless travel funds, they let use ticketless funds that weren’t in my name (my daughter and her friends) since the policy was new, towards my next business flight…long story but they were very nice about. I really love these guys. They treat customers like customers. Wow, what a novel concept for an airline.

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