Southwest Airlines loses top spot in passenger satisfaction, even as others gain

A traveler checks her baggage at the Southwest Airlines terminal at LAX airport in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

(Reuters) - Southwest Airlines Co, the biggest user of Boeing Co’s 737 MAX jets that were grounded worldwide following two fatal crashes, dropped two places from the top in terms of passenger satisfaction in 2019, a survey by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) showed.

Southwest was ranked third this year out of 10 airlines, behind Alaska Air Group Inc and JetBlue Airways Corp that climbed one place each to claim the first and the second spot.

“Recent deadly crashes of the Boeing 737 Max (for Ethiopian Airlines and Air Lion) have left Southwest particularly vulnerable to safety concerns,” ACSI said in a report.

Passenger satisfaction for all airlines on average in 2019 was up 1.4 percent to 74 points, with Alaska scoring 80 points on a scale of 0 to 100, and JetBlue and Southwest got 79 each.

American Airlines Group Inc, the No.1 U.S. airline that has the second-biggest fleet of the grounded MAX jets in the United States, lost 1 point to score 73, but maintained its fifth rank in the chart.

American has grounded its 24 737 MAX jetliners until Aug. 19, leading to about 115 daily cancellations during the peak summer travel season.

Southwest lost more than $200 million in revenue during the first quarter and has taken its 34 MAX aircraft out of the company’s flying schedule through Aug. 5.

Delta Air Lines Inc gained 1 point to get a score of 75 and maintained its rank at the fourth spot. United Continental Holdings Inc added 4 points to earn a score of 70, while also keeping its seventh rank as last year.

ACSI measures passenger satisfaction scores based on interviews with thousands of customers across a range of metrics including timeliness of arrival, baggage handling, loyalty program, cleanliness and in-flight entertainment.

Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel