Airlines pay no financial penalty for treating travellers poorly, which may explain why some continue to abuse customers with impunity, according to researchers at the University of Nevada at Reno.

Forbes reported October 7, 2018 that researchers found no relationship between customer satisfaction ratings and airlines’ financial performance.

“Airlines don’t seem to place a priority on customer service despite the fact that they advertise to the contrary,” said Jeffrey Wong, a professor and department chair in the university’s College of Business Accounting. “And yet, some airlines are still profitable.”

US airlines had profits of $16.4 billion in 2017, for example, while scoring just 73 out of 100 on the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index.

The bottom line is that airlines provide a service that travellers need, so the public puts up with all manner of abuses, from cancelled and delayed flights to overbooking and surly employees.

“From the shrinking width of seats and space in-between the seats to baggage fees for luggage and limited food services on domestic flights, many airlines still tout their customer satisfaction,” said Wong.

Profits, however, stem not from better customer service but logistical factors, such as how many passengers can be squeezed onto a given flight, said Wong.