Bad news for passengers seeking better service

People love to complain. That really works as a general rule in life but when it comes to airlines there are many who have turned it into something of an art form. Railing on the airlines for bad service has become so commonplace that it is almost white noise at this point rather than a solid rebuke of legitimate complaints (and I’m sure I am, from time to time, part of the problem here though I try not to be). As consumers there is often the hope that airlines will realize they’ll win more customers if they’d just offer better service. Having employees be nice isn’t hard and rarely costs extra, after all, and those happier passengers will return more often and buy more tickets. Except that’s not how the real world works apparently.

A snippit of the infographic from Forbes; click to see the whole thing on their site.

Forbes has a infographic out this week comparing ticket sales to airline satisfaction ratings. And it includes this not-too-surprising conclusion: “Apparent correlation: zero.” Looking at the domestic carriers they show no correlation between AQR scores and tickets sold.

Of course, there are plenty of reasons to doubt this data. For one, they’re using the AQR which has some strange metrics they use to transform DoT complaints into a perceived ranking of airline satisfaction. I’ve written about the AQR study previously and my views there haven’t really changed; I still think it fails in statistical significance for some categories. Also, the report seems to be missing a few airlines (notably Alaska Airlines and Virgin America). I don’t know if that’s because the data on them might actually counter the claim or that the infographic people were lazy or something else. But it is strange that they are excluded.

Statistics are fun to play with and often easy to skew to support any particular claim. In this case the numbers seem to be working against customers. I wonder if it really is true.

h/t Ty for sharing the link to the Forbes story.

Related Posts:

Never miss another post: Sign up for email alerts and get only the content you want direct to your inbox.

Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Missing airlines because there’s no DOT data on airlines who have small market share, like Alaska and Virgin.

  2. I don’t think this comparison is meaningful on its own. If good service drives anything, it is customer selection when a choice is there to make. This could drive more pax, higher loads, premium fares, or any number of other items. With capacity discipline so important, number of boarded passengers is likely the wrong metric. Too many other factors drive total enplanements.

  3. Yeah, it doesn’t surprise me much with either there’s no obvious correlation between service and sales. I think it’s likely that other factors (business case/budget/family-based travel) outweigh service in the decision to buy more tickets (both positively and negatively). Also, as much as service has deteriorated, I think travelers have amortized that into the experience, almost like a version of personal income tax.

    I’ve always hated driving the Jersey Turnpike to get to/from NY when I decide to drive instead of fly. But, it took 15 years of occasonial catastrophic traffic delays to decide on an alternate route. I suspect many people treat air travel similarly.

  4. Well if profit rather than revenue is used….the Delta vs United correlation becomes more apparent 🙂

Comments are closed.