New data published in the Airline Customer Experience Index last week suggests that Dallas-based Southwest Airlines has the best desktop booking experience among U.S. carriers. Low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines ranked the worst in the United States.
The study asked 1000 travelers to go through the booking process across ten airlines in the United States and then collected data based on the users' experience with Ease of Use, Speed, Credibility, Aesthetics and Delight. Overall scores placed Southwest on top of the heap with 86.9 out of a maximum 100 points. Spirit was only able to reign in 36.4 points.
The big three legacy carriers of Delta, American and United also ranked in the bottom half of the study in 6th, 7th and 8th place respectively.
Desktop booking experience is a critical factor when considering how airlines approach customers and shepherd them through the purchase experience. Logically, a good (or high ranked) booking experience lowers the barrier to entry around buying a ticket and produces better sales and happier customers.
Southwest Airlines scored well in the study because it ranked at the top or near the top when considering the site's ease of use, its speed and its perceived credibility. Virgin America, which was ranked second in the study, did best around perceived credibility and delight -- or the process of keeping customers entertained during the booking process.
Spirit Airlines, of note, scored 20 points in the delight category against Virgin America's 85.6. During the booking process on spirit.com, customers are often hit up for extra fees and ads. Perhaps by extension, Spirit also scored lowest in the credibility category, pulling in a score of 42.5. The next most credible airline in 9th place was United at 72.5 while Virgin America scored 92.9. According to the study, "hidden information made travelers distrustful of [Spirit]." Another user reported that "“The [Spirit] site took me to three or four different pages where they tried to sell me different services. This came off a little bit like a website that offers scam-like products or services.”
Needless to say, across the broad consumer market, airlines still continue to perform low. "Airlines are not traditionally known for delivering delightful customer experiences," suggests study, adding that "according to The US Customer Experience Index, 2017 from Forrester Research, overall customer experience performance from the top 12 North American airlines was dismal." So despite Southwest's dominance in this study, the entire airline industry has much to improve.