Passenger satisfaction with airlines improves for a second straight year, up 3% to an ACSI score of 66. Southwest Airlines drops 2% to 79, but still leads all airlines for a 17th straight year. Continental is up 4% to 71. The aggregate of all smaller airlines such as Jet Blue and Alaska Airlines is in between, dropping 3% to 75. American Airlines and US Airways are far behind but show sizeable improvements, up 5% to 63 and 62, respectively. United makes the biggest gain, up 7% to 60, although it is still last in the industry. Delta drops in the wake of its merger with Northwest, falling 3% to 62.
Low rates, lots of promotions, and free perks are keeping customer satisfaction with hotels steady at 75 for a third straight year. Hilton leads the category again, up 1% to 80, this time tied by Marriott which surges 4%. Hyatt follows closely at 79, after a 7% gain. Intercontinental, led by its Holiday Inn brand, and Starwood also improve, up 4% to 78 and 77, respectively. Choice Hotels falls 3% to 74, while Wyndham Worldwide (Ramada, Super 8, Days Inn) rounds out the bottom of the category, unchanged at 70.
While most of the largest chains improve, the opposite is true for McDonald's and the smaller ones. Frequent price promotions and new menu items contribute to increasing customer satisfaction for the largest restaurant and fast food chains. Pizza makers are riding the top of the wave. Papa John's leads the fast food category, jumping 7% to 80. Pizza Hut (+5%) and Little Caesar (+4%) follow at 78. KFC and Burger King are the other big gainers, up 9% to 75 and 7% to 74, respectively.
Domino's remains at 77, despite rolling out new ingredients that reinvented its pizzas from the crust up. McDonald's alone drops, falling 4% to an industry low of 67. Olive Garden leads the restaurant category, up 4% to 84, followed closely by Red Lobster, up 4% to 83. Outback and Chili's gain too, but are well behind. Outback improves 4% to 80, while Chili's is at the bottom, rising 5% to 78.
Customer satisfaction with express mail services used by consumers to ship packages improves 1% to match its highest score in more than a decade at 83. FedEx leads the category for a thirteenth straight year, up 1% to 85. UPS follows, unchanged at 82, while the U.S. Postal Service trails far behind both, up 1% to 77. The Postal Service shows a much stronger performance for express delivery than for its regular mail service, which drops 4% to 71, matching its lowest level in nearly 10 years.