Southwest Tops Zagat Airline Survey

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — On the whole, 2010 was a lousy year for airline travelers, with higher airfare, more added fees and new intrusive security procedures, but despite all of this, one airline continued to win over consumers’ hearts.

Southwest (Stock Quote: LUV) was voted the best domestic airline by value for the third consecutive year, according to a new survey by Zagat.

The survey, which is based on interviews with more than 8,000 frequent fliers about 90 different airlines, also ranked Southwest as the best for on-time estimates, luggage policy and check-in experience, and received high marks for its website and frequent flier programs.

"While fliers are slowly but surely returning to the skies, they remain focused on good values and reliable service," said Tim Zagat, CEO of Zagat Survey, in a press release. "Airlines like Virgin America, Southwest, JetBlue and Continental score well with surveyors for precisely this reason."

Continental (Stock Quote: CAL) ranked the best among large domestic premium class carriers while JetBlue (Stock Quote: JBLU) and Virgin scored well for domestic economy-class flights. Still, none of these airlines proved quite as popular across a wide variety of categories as Southwest.

The survey also posed more general questions to travelers, which hint at Southwest’s method for success, and what other airlines can do to capitalize on it.

For example, the majority of people surveyed (63%) book flights through an airline’s website, and nearly half try to avoid flying on airlines that charge for checked luggage. Not only does Southwest rank as having the best website of any airline, but it also maintains a strong social media presence to reach its customers. And as we’ve reported before, Southwest has no carry-on charge, and fewer fees than all other airlines.

So, airlines, consider this proof that if you treat consumers well, they’ll notice.

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