Southwest Airlines continues its reign as the US leader in airline customer service, but overall traveller satisfaction with the industry fell 2.7 per cent, according to the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index’s (ACSI) 2018 Travel Report.

Southwest’s industry-leading ACSI score – based on more than 12,000 surveys querying customers on subjects like legroom, reservations, aircrew courtesy, and baggage handling – held steady at 80, but that was good enough to top the list after JetBlue’s year-over-year score fell 4 per cent, to 79.

Alaska Airlines also scored 79, up 1 per cent from 2017. Frontier and Spirit Airlines tied for last place in the customer satisfaction survey, each with a score of 62. That represented a 2 per cent rise for Spirit but a 2 per cent decline for Frontier compared to last year.

“The 18-point gap between first place and last place among airlines is fairly typical,” said David VanAmburg, managing director at ACSI. “Customer satisfaction is going to be lower for the ultra-low-cost carriers, which are focused more on price than quality, and the scores reflect that. The same holds true among hotels. As costs rise and seats shrink, a focus on customer service and loyalty will set some airlines apart.”

The overall guest satisfaction score for hotels was 76 on the 1-to-100 point ACSI scale; internet-based travel services scored 78.

Hilton was the top-rated hotel brand, followed by Marriott, Starwood (now part of Marriott), and Hyatt. Orbitz had the top score among online travel booking sites.