Best and Worst Airlines of 2022 for Customer Service

Best and Worst Airlines of 2022 for Customer Service

Travel Troubleshooter

What are the best airlines of the year for customer service? Ask passengers, and they’ll mention favorites like JetBlue and Southwest (despite that company’s recent vacation meltdown). And they will criticize legacy carriers like American and United, and low-cost carriers who love to charge fares.

Travelers have been talking a lot lately. They complained about airline service in record numbers last year. Last summer, consumer complaints against airlines were nearly 270% higher than pre-pandemic levels. We’ll have to wait until early 2023 for last year’s total, but it doesn’t look good.

So which airlines are the best performers for their customers? Which one didn’t? And what, if any, is the government doing about the state of airline customer service?

These are the best airlines for customer service

Customers say they love perennial favorites, including JetBlue, Southwest, Delta and Alaska. And in 2022, those airlines are coming for passengers again — to a point.

Alex Penney, a community coordinator in Nashville, Tennessee, flew to Dallas on Southwest Airlines recently. Weather and staffing issues led to delay after delay. He was afraid he would miss his appointment in Dallas and approached the gate agent about his concerns.

“From that point on, they did everything they could to speed up my trip,” he says. “They gave me an early boarding so I could get a seat at the front of the plane. The flight attendant drew a makeshift map showing me how to get to ground transportation quickly. To my shock, Southwest gave me a $200 voucher for a future flight.”

Benny says he’s a customer for life.

Inez Stanaway says her vote for best airline goes to Delta. The last flight from Atlanta to Detroit is a highlight.

“The ride was smooth and on time,” says Stanaway, who runs an art website in Atlanta. “The staff was attentive and courteous, and I had no problems whatsoever. It was a very pleasant experience.”

Research supports these experiences. Fordham University’s American Innovation Index ranked JetBlue as the best airline, followed by Southwest, Alaska and Delta. Lerzan Aksoy, interim dean of Fordham Business School, says this airline goes “extremely far” when it comes to customer service.

“Customers appreciate when airlines go above and beyond to help customers with superior service and flexibility,” she added.

My favorite airlines in 2022

I didn’t fly in the US last year, but I’ve had plenty of opportunities to try foreign airlines.

Qatar Airways is one of my favorite flying experiences in 2022. I flew with Gulf Air from Frankfurt to Doha and Doha to Cape Town in economy class. Cabin service in Qatar was excellent and gave me plenty of legroom on both flights. Also, I wasn’t charged extra for my luggage – just like in the old days.

Turkish Airlines also got high marks. I flew the national carrier from Cape Town to Istanbul in Business Class and then around Turkey in Economy Class. I especially loved the food on board, from the great Turkish coffee to the freshly baked simit (bread). Turkish hospitality is legendary.

SAS flew me from London to Oslo and from Bergen to Split, Croatia, last fall. Although the airline was struggling financially, this did not prevent it from providing first-class service. When people complain about the demise of European airlines, they are clearly not talking about SAS.

These are the worst airlines for customer service

The worst airlines are also familiar. Passengers mention negative experiences with some older airlines and low fare airlines known for their fees.

Denis Cherchikov recalls the recent American Airlines flight from Mexico City to New York with his wife and three young children. As they boarded, a crew member instructed him to check their carriage. Cherchikov, who runs a real estate investment firm in New York, says he declined because the stroller was the size of an organization and he needed it to transport his children. “They were very confrontational,” he says.

When he arrived at JFK, the stroller was gone. He finally found it in the lost and found. It was bent and scratched but still worked. His relationship with American Airlines was irreparably damaged. He says he will avoid the American from now on.

But even airlines like United aren’t as bad as they used to be, at least when it comes to customer service. The US Innovation Index found that United was the airline that improved the most over the past five years, with its score increasing by 15 points on a 100-point scale. Customers love United because they are easy to work with and have a good loyalty program.

It’s not perfect. “United has significant delays in processing refunds and cancellations,” says Molly Egan, a hospitality designer construction manager from Denver.

DOT complaint data supports this list of least preferred carriers. In the first half of 2022, American Airlines had the most complaints (3,186), followed by United Airlines (2,391), Spirit Airlines (1,909), and Frontier Airlines (1,750).

Government: Airline service may have bottomed out in 2022

Ask the US government, and you might be thinking that airlines provide the absolute worst service.

In November, the Department of Transportation issued a record $7.25 million fine against six airlines for failing to refund tickets for flights that were canceled or changed dramatically during the pandemic. The government has also issued four more Aviation Protection Orders – fines against airlines for violating management regulations or engaging in unfair and deceptive practices.

Airline regulators last year proposed a new rule that would make it easier to refund money when a flight is canceled or significantly delayed. It will also allow passengers to get airline credits that do not expire when their flights are canceled for reasons related to the pandemic, such as the government’s travel ban.

The Department of Transportation has set up a new customer service dashboard that posts information on how each airline handles delays or cancellations. For example, you can see if your airline offers hotels, meal vouchers, or ground transportation to your hotel when you have to spend the night at the airport.

This year could be a year of reckoning for airlines as some of these rules are adopted by regulators. Barring a miracle, Southwest likely won’t end up on anyone’s favorite list for 2023 after the holiday meltdown. (But if anyone can make up for passengers, it’s probably Southwest.)

but that is not all. Congress will consider the next FAA reauthorization bill, which funds the FAA. Traditionally, it is an opportunity for legislators to influence industry performance through new legislation.

Given the summer wave of delays and cancellations — and skyrocketing airfares — the industry is unlikely to continue to shake off this behavior.

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