5 Airlines With the Best Customer Service


Flying is not the customer-focused experience it was back in the 60s and 70s. In fact, talk about flying to many people today and a grimace will make its way onto their faces. Some say that a plane has become nothing more than a Greyhound bus with wings, and the airlines seem to charge for every little thing. From fees for both checked and carry-on bags, fees for online check-in, charges for movies and meals, and even paying to rent headsets, you get very little for your money these days.

So, when AirlineQualityRating.com releases the findings of its annual customer service study, everyone who flies should take note. If you are going to be in the air, it may as well be with one of the top five airlines that excel at customer service. Here they are.

1. Virgin America

The airline owned by Sir Richard Branson continues to have an incredibly positive impact on those who fly the Virgin skies. It all starts when you enter the aircraft and are greeted by a sumptuous glow of purple in the main cabin (and when you get to Select and First Class, you're in a completely different world). Seats in the main cabin are soft black leather, and of course, there is the vast array of on-demand entertainment, Wi-Fi, personal outlets, and snacks including jerky sausage and veggie chips.

However, where Virgin America really steps it up is the customer service, and the overall passenger experience. Virgin recently introduced "Seat-to-Seat delivery + Chat," and it's the kind of innovation that Sir Branson is known to embrace. If you're on a flight and fancy striking up a conversation with someone, be it a friend, a co-worker, or a complete stranger, the on-board touch screen system lets you break the ice by sending a drink or a snack to another seat. You can also mingle in a chat room, or flirt with someone you saw as you were getting on board. Suddenly, the prospect of a long flight can be turned on its head, and you are now entering an experience similar to a bar or club that uses social media. What's more, the flight attendants are known to be some of the most friendly (and funny) flying today.

It was recently reported that Alaska Airlines plans to purchase Virgin America for $2.6 billion. No doubt the continued excellence in customer service, and on board innovation, was a big part of that purchasing decision. Let's hope it doesn't negatively affect the Virgin America experience.

2. JetBlue

The JetBlue experience is certainly different from most carriers these days. Take a quick look at their "Experience JetBlue" page and the first thing you'll see is the word free.

Yes. Free. And this is from a low-cost carrier.

Once you're onboard a JetBlue flight, you are treated to unlimited free brand name snacks and drinks, including Cheez-Its, Craisins, Terra Blues, and an array of cold Coke and Seagrams beverages. Dunkin' Donuts provides the tea and coffee. JetBlue also boasts the most legroom in coach of any airlines, and you can boost that to an Even More Space seat if you feel like treating yourself.

And then, of course, there's the customer service. It's award-winning, ensuring your travel is the very best. To this end, JetBlue introduced the Customer Bill of Rights, and it guarantees that you get the very best flight your money can buy — or, you get your money back.

Want more? Well, if your flight is delayed by between 90 minutes and two hours, you'll get a $25 credit for future JetBlue travel. If that hits six hours or more, you get a $200 credit. If it's an onboard ground delay, you'll get the same $200 after five hours.

What does this mean? Well, if you're JetBlue, you have quite the financial incentive to keep the planes running on time. It's yet another reason JetBlue is nipping at the heels of Virgin America, and may well take the number one spot next year. See also: Earn Award Flights Faster With the JetBlue Card

3. Delta

While not quite matching the performance of the top two on the list, Delta comes in at an impressive third place, beating out two airlines that are renowned for customer care. Perhaps part of that was Delta's on-time percentage for 2015, which was a remarkable 85.9%, with only two bags per 1,000 passengers mishandled.

Delta does free snacks, including Biscoff cookies Starbucks coffee, and the usual array of beverages (although as is usual these days, you have to purchase larger snacks and alcoholic drinks).

If you choose Delta to fly international, you'll get uninterrupted sleep courtesy of a sleep kit featuring eyeshades and earplugs (also handy for those screaming kids that can really put a dent in your good humor). See also: Which Delta SkyMiles Credit Card has the Best Value?

4. Hawaiian

Last year Hawaiian were in the number two spot, so they have dropped a few places. But don't let this convince you that their customer service has dropped, or that they are not making the effort. Rather, other airlines have upped their game based on some of the stories that have been told about Hawaiian.

For a start, Hawaiian flights are more likely to be on time than any other airlines. In 2015, 88.4% of the flights operated by Hawaiian were on time and ready to go, which is a huge achievement.

Hawaiian recently took a leaf out of Priceline.com's "What's it worth to you?" strategy, and introduced the Bud Up system. Basically, you book regular tickets and then enter a bid to upgrade those seats to First Class. If the bid is accepted (presumable based on availability, popularity, and route), you will get your seats bumped to First Class at the price you dictated. Could this be as little as $1 each? Doubtful…but who knows!

Of course, being Hawaiian, the airline prides itself on the more laid-back customer service approach you would expect from the island paradise it is named after. Big smiles, great food, and if you like, you can purchase a Lei Greeting and have a garland of fresh flowers draped over you on your arrival at your destination.

5. Alaska

As mentioned in the top spot, Alaska recently put in a huge bid for Virgin America, so perhaps next year they will take the number one slot. For now, Alaska is sitting pretty in fifth place, and this is largely due to the low number of complaints it received in 2015; just 0.5 complaints for every 100,000 passengers. Or, five complaints for every one million passengers.

When you consider how much people hate flying today, finding only five people in a million who had something negative to say about their trip is mind-boggling. So, what is Alaska doing right?

According to J.D. Power, a lot. They have awarded Alaska "Highest in Customer Satisfaction Among Traditional Carriers in North America" nine years running.

Alaska's Customer Service Commitment plays a big part in this rating. It includes a promise of the lowest available fare, flexibility in the first 24 hours of booking, special treatment during extended delays, a guarantee of a clean and comfortable aircraft, and seamless partnerships with partners including Delta and Peninsula.

And if you're wondering, the next five airlines for 2016 are…

  1. Southwest
  2. SkyWest
  3. United
  4. ExpressJet
  5. American

What's your favorite airline?

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Guest's picture

Southworst should be #10 and American should take #6! :-p