News and notes from Hartsfield-Jackson, the world's busiest airport

How did Delta & Southwest score in customer satisfaction ranking?

Delta Air Lines ranked fifth out of nine carriers in a new customer satisfaction report, while Southwest Airlines tied for first place with JetBlue Airways.

The industry as a whole logged its best score in more than 20 years.

Atlanta-based Delta, the dominant carrier at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, had a score of 71 out of 100 in the American Customer Satisfaction Index for 2016. That’s on par with its score last year, putting it in the middle of the pack.

Southwest, the second-largest carrier in Atlanta, shared the top spot with JetBlue. Both had a score of 80.

At the bottom of the ranking were Frontier, Allegiant and Spirit Airlines, ultra low-cost carriers that offer fewer perks with a discount fare.

The overall industry score improved to 72, from 69 in 2015. It was the highest score since 1994.

Still, the airline industry scores near the bottom compared with other industries, just above phone service, health insurance, the U.S. Postal Service, subscription TV and the Internet service providers.

Flying is still “not a very comfortable or very pleasant experience,” said American Customer Satisfaction Index managing director David VanAmburg. And he said the prime reason for that — seat comfort, or lack thereof — is something airlines are unlikely to significantly improve across the board.

Still, lower air fares due to decreased fuel costs are helping to improve scores, VanAmburg said.

Inflation-adjusted air fares are at their lowest level in five years, according to VanAmburg, citing data from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“Customers of airlines are always going to be satisfied with that,” he said. Ultra low-cost carriers benefit from that the most, VanAmburg said, because “passengers are booking flights with them almost exclusively on price. That really is what it’s all about.” Frontier and Spirit improved their scores significantly.

Airlines are also taking their record profits and investing in better food and snacks, as well as more amenities like in-flight wi-fi.

The index is based on interviews with 6,913 people who were asked to evaluate recent experiences.

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About the Author

Business reporter Kelly Yamanouchi covers airlines and the airport.