The least satisfying part about airlines is the flying, survey says

Seat comfort and in-flight service rank the lowest in customer satisfaction

Passenger satisfaction with air carriers in the U.S. improved slightly this year but not enough to pull airlines out of the bottom of the list of most appreciated industries.

When it comes to customer satisfaction, airlines still rank below gas stations, the U.S. Postal Service and public utilities, according to a new report released Monday by the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index, based on interview with more than 7,000 Americans.

At the top of the list are the makers of television and video players, credit unions and soft drink producers. At the bottom are airlines, health insurance companies, subscription television services and Internet providers.

The study confirms what airline passengers have been saying lately: Seat comfort and in-flight service are key to making a flight enjoyable.

The study found that most elements of a flight — booking a flight, checking in, handling baggage and boarding — get ratings above 77 in a 100-point scale. Once passengers are seated, the ratings drop.

The two most despised part of flying are seat comfort (65 rating) and in-flight service (72).

“Up until boarding, passengers are reasonably satisfied with airlines but then the problems begin,” the report said.

Despite the numbers, a spokeswoman for the airline industry said carriers have invested heavily in new planes, seats and entertainment systems.

“U.S. airlines continue to do a great job for their customers despite many circumstances beyond their control, including historically severe weather,” said Victoria Day, a spokeswoman for Airlines for America, the trade group for the nation’s largest carrier.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.

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