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Airline Approval Ratings Take a Dive

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — No industry has seen its approval hurt more since the recession ended than airlines, one new survey shows.

Just 50% of Americans now feel that airlines do a good job of serving customers, while 43% feel airlines do a bad job, according to the latest survey of consumer feedback by Harris Interactive. That's up by 27 percentage points since 2009, marking the steepest decline of the more than 20 industries that consumers were asked to rate.

While Harris’s survey of nearly 2,000 people didn’t ask respondents to explain their reasoning, it’s certainly not hard to see why airlines are losing fans. In the past two years alone, airlines have introduced new fees for everything from printing boarding passes to scoring more legroom. New security measures make it more aggravating just to get on the flight and there have been multiple incidents where passengers have been kicked off flights for questionable reasons.

All of this seems to have done more damage to the industry’s reputation than even a massive oil spill did to the oil industry’s reputation. Yes, far more consumers disapprove of oil companies than approve of them, with 64% saying these companies do a bad job of serving customers, but that spread between approval and disapproval has only dropped by five percentage points in the past two years, a fraction of the hit that airlines have taken.

On the other hand, as airline companies have seen their approval ratings drop, the reputation of car companies has enjoyed a big boost in recent years. Some 69% of those surveyed said car manufacturers are doing a good job serving customers, while just 27% rated these manufacturers as doing a bad job. Two years ago, the percentage of people who liked car manufacturers was only six percentage points higher than those who didn’t.

Either car companies have become much better at serving Americans, or industries like airlines have lowered the bar so much with their bad service that consumers feel that much more appreciative of the service provided by car manufacturers. Probably it’s a little bit of both.

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