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Elizabeth Glagowski | April 4, 2011

AirTran Tops Airline Quality Study

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Budget airline AirTrain topped the Airline Quality Rating for 2011, beating out fellow low-cost carriers JetBlue, Southwest, as well as the big dogs like American, Delta, and United. The rankings show that inexpensive doesn't equal less quality. With a commitment to customers, efficiency, and effectiveness, it is possible to provide a fantastic customer experience without crippling customers' wallets.

The airlines were judged on criteria including percentage of on-time flights, denied boarding, mishandled baggage, and customer complaints on a variety of topics. Last year's winner, Hawaiian Airlines, dropped to the number two spot, followed by JetBlue and Alaska Airlines. Regional airlines Comair, Atlantic Southeast, and American Eagle scored lowest overall.

The findings are based on Department of Transportation data and published by Dr. Brent D. Bowen of Purdue University and Dr. Dean Headley of Wichita State University. This is the 21st year of the study.

As we've written, a good customer experience doesn't take much in the customer's eyes. Most don't need to be wowed. They just want value, convenience, and promises to be kept. On-time flights, baggage that arrives with you, and quality customer service can go a long way in developing a customer's trust in a company.

Sure, AirTran's positioning is one of low-cost, so much so that the company even prints tongue-in-cheek instructions on their bags of peanuts reminding customers of how inexpensive their experience was. But price aside, the company focuses on what it takes to create a good experience, which is what will really keep customers coming back.

I have never flown AirTran, but I will consider it now. Not because it's cheap, but because of the quality of experience it provides.

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