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Old 06-28-2007, 08:30 PM   #1
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Exclamation Consumer Reports: Best airlines for today's busy skies

The July 2007 issue of Consumer Reports ranks US airlines with both an overall readers' score as well as evaluations in the areas of check-in ease, seating comfort, cabin staff service, online booking, and on-time performance.

Overall readers' scores:
JetBlue (87)
Midwest (86)
Southwest (80)
Frontier (78)
Hawaiian (78)
Aloha (75)
Alaska (74)
Spirit (74)
Continental (72)
AirTran (71)
Delta (67)
American (66)
ATA (66)
Northwest (66)
American Eagle (65)
United (64)
America West (62)
US Airways (62)

Tops in (either a red circle denoting "Better" or red half-circle denoting "above average):
Check-in ease: JetBlue, Midwest, Southwest, Alaska
Seating comfort: JetBLue, Midwest, Frontier, Hawaiian, Aloha
Cabin staff service: JetBlue, Midwest, Southwest, Frontier, Hawaiian, Aloha
Online booking: JetBlue, Midwest, Southwest
On-time performance: Aloha, JetBlue, Midwest, Southwest, Frontier, Hawaiian

CR "Quick Picks":
Best combination of service and price: JetBlue, Southwest, Frontier, Hawaiian
Solid service (but not necessarily lower fares): Midwest, Aloha

Although there were separate breakdowns for US Airways and America West as they continue to work toward amalgamating the two carriers, CR noted that US Airways overall score dropped from 62 in this survey to 52 in a follow-up.

They note that smaller and newer airlines such as JetBlue (in spite of their much-heralded problems earlier this year) and Midwest seemed to treat customers better, although AirTran and ATA delivered only average and below-average satisfaction in the CR survey.

What CR finds troublesome is that the industry average satisfaction score of 72 "is worse than that of hotels and rental car companies and better only than such perennials of frustration as wireless carriers, cable TV operators, and computer tech support."

The July issue is on newsstands now. Check it out.
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Old 06-28-2007, 11:10 PM   #2
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I don't know how much stock that someone should place in rankings from Consumer Reports when I posted this information in this forum back on June 6.

First, the Consumer Report subscribers that particpated in the survey averaged 1.3 flights in the previous 13 to 14 months (01/01/06 to 02/07) which isn't that many flights. If 'flight' means one way\segment\etc: 1) 68% or less of the 22,997 CR subscribers had a round trip based upon two flight segments. 2) it will be 34% if a CR subscriber had four flight segements (i.e. made a connecting flight). Regardless, how a flight is defined and etc, these Consumer Report subscribers don't travel that much for them to rank, judge and etc.
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The Consumer Report ratings are based on a February 2007 Consumer Reports National Research Center survey of 22,997 ConsumerReports.org subscribers reporting on 31,455 U.S. domestic flight experiences since January 2006. Reader score represents overall satisfaction with the airline: If all respondents were completely satisfied, the reader score would be 100. A score of 80 indicates that respondents were very satisfied on average; 60, fairly well satisfied; and 40, somewhat dissatisfied. Differences of less than 4 points are not meaningful. Check-in ease, seating comfort, cabin staff service, and online booking are based on the percentage who rated the flight excellent or very good for each factor. They reflect how the airline’s score for that attribute compared with the average score; thus the lowest scores reflect below average, not poor, performance. On-time performance indicates whether there was a delay of an hour or more in arrival at the destination airport. A dash means insufficient sample size. Ratings are based on experiences of ConsumerReports.org subscribers and might not be representative of the general population.
Second, I am a member of CR and have participated in some surveys. I must question the data that was collected.
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Old 06-28-2007, 11:33 PM   #3
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ARW, I completely agree with your post. I too am a member of CR (though I'm probably not going to renew), and have found their appliance, and electronics reviews excellent, though they have a definite bias (more in a moment), but have found their car reviews, and travel reviews, less than desired.

I believe that part of the problem is the overall self-selection of their members who are polled. Economically, they seem to be grouped in the mid-middle class to lower-middle class, and looking for immediate cash value, as opposed to long term value. As a result on travel, they tend to travel only domestically, and at a rate of basically one vacation per year. That makes for a hit or miss evaluation, which in my opinion isn't reliable.

With appliance and electronics reviews, you have to understand the overall review ends up centering on value, and to the membership that means it's rare the upper end of the appliance lines are rated highly. We were looking for a new oven, and definitely wanted a convection, self-cleaning oven, with a delay mode, and temp probe. None of the reviews we saw gave high marks to the ovens with these features, mostly because it was in the higher price range, even when they were GE, Kenmore, Whirlpool and other typical brands. I'm not even going to include upper range appliances like Kitchen Aid in that group. So if you understand the bias toward lower investment purchases, then you can decipher the reviews, and they can give you a real idea of the products. I've used their reviews, mostly to try to find out reliability or specific appliance type problems with certain brands. That's worked well.

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Originally Posted by Arizona Road Warrior View Post
I don't know how much stock that someone should place in rankings from Consumer Reports when I posted this information in this forum back on June 6.

First, the Consumer Report subscribers that particpated in the survey averaged 1.3 flights in the previous 13 to 14 months (01/01/06 to 02/07) which isn't that many flights. If 'flight' means one way\segment\etc: 1) 68% or less of the 22,997 CR subscribers had a round trip based upon two flight segments. 2) it will be 34% if a CR subscriber had four flight segements (i.e. made a connecting flight). Regardless, how a flight is defined and etc, these Consumer Report subscribers don't travel that much for them to rank, judge and etc.

Second, I am a member of CR and have participated in some surveys. I must question the data that was collected.
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Old 06-29-2007, 07:02 AM   #4
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I think it is funny that both Ned and AWR both said that they were "members" of CR? I will admit my ignorance because I am not a subscriber, but is there a "membership"?

If not, I think it says something about their brand (not necessarily the study) that their "subscribers" call themselves "members".
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Old 06-29-2007, 09:33 AM   #5
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Consumer Reports is printed by the Consumer Union, which is an organization which does much more than test products, conduct surveys and print the Consumer Reports magazine and keep up their CR website. It really is a membership organization, hence we are members, not just subscribers. I don't even get the magazine. My membership option only includes the website.
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Old 07-01-2007, 11:24 AM   #6
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I agree with the assessment about consumer reports. Once you understand the inherent biases of the organization, you can decipher the reports and get some useful information

The targetted demographics of consumer reports is definitely not the upper or luxury end which has a completely different value assessment matrix.

For me, as a business traveler, Southwest is not an option even though they scored hi. The AAngels at the Admirals club, the upgrades to first, the international routes, the pre-assigned seating, not waiting in line to board, having my jacket hung on a clothes rack so its not wrinkled, are all things which I place a very high value on. Southwest provides none of those services.

I learned to avoid CRs travel advice after they published a very contrived article about the Bay area - Los Angeles route argueing that it's better for a single person to drive that route than to fly. I've flown that route for 17 years and the assumptions that CR made were completely wrong, and particularly wrong for a business traveler. It pas particularly telling that they used a passenger traveling with a newborn baby as normative for the traveling population.
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Old 07-08-2007, 05:29 PM   #7
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I fly more than those CR respondents apparently do, but I'm not at all a busy flier. Still, it seems to me that a survey of people who only fly on their annual vacation has validity. I.e., a lot of people are mad at USAirway and a lot of other people are less annoyed with Jetblue. The fact that even people who hardly fly give certain airlines bad ratings tells me that anyone stands a better chance of getting lousing treatment from those companies. Once-a-year fliers are akin to a random inspector showing up on a flight.
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Old 07-08-2007, 10:42 PM   #8
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What you say is generally true about the one a year flier, however, we then need to know what the geographic location of the respondents were and what weighting system was used in making the survey calculations, to understand its validity. CR doesn't tell us that.

Then there are other factors. In general, I find that once a year fliers, bring unrealistic expectations with them, more with regard to the legacy airlines than the newer airlines. They often remember the "good olde days," and are extremely disappointed when they don't get the old level of service, which they aren't going to get. Look at the list. You don't get to a legacy carrier until #9, with Continental. I'm not surprised at all.

I fly US Airways a lot and think they have to improve, but I sure don't think they're even close to the bottom of the heap, nor that much below the quality of the airlines at the top of the list. I also have flown Midwest, Alaska, Continental, AirTran, American, American Eagle, and United at least 4 times each (except Midwest at twice) in the last two years. Of this list I thought Midwest was excellent. I don't have much opportunity to fly them and over the next few years, based on where I'm going to be, I won't be flying them at all. I thought Alaska was about the worst airline I've ever flown, and unless I go somewhere only they go in Alaska, I won't be flying them again, anytime soon. I don't like AirTran either, but they're more or less OK. I'd put United, only slightly better than Alaska, but unfortunately I end up using them a few times a year. I'd put the rest of the ones I've flown on the list together with US Air as being pretty equivalent.

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Originally Posted by JustCorbly View Post
I fly more than those CR respondents apparently do, but I'm not at all a busy flier. Still, it seems to me that a survey of people who only fly on their annual vacation has validity. I.e., a lot of people are mad at USAirway and a lot of other people are less annoyed with Jetblue. The fact that even people who hardly fly give certain airlines bad ratings tells me that anyone stands a better chance of getting lousing treatment from those companies. Once-a-year fliers are akin to a random inspector showing up on a flight.
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Old 07-08-2007, 11:09 PM   #9
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For the infrequent flier, every airline is going to be rated based only on their most recent experience with little to compare it to. It's hardly a fair scientific sampling. Service ratings are all relative these days because the majority of air travel is simply not that pleasant any longer. More or less it's a contest to see who sucks marginally less than their competition.
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Old 07-11-2007, 12:34 PM   #10
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One of the things that I have learned about the once-a-year flier is that they tend to research their flights and then find out about the changes and issues that the airlines are facing. This causes them to panic at times and call an agent, who answers all of their questions and still doesn't get the booking.
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