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The most satisfying part about traveling is not your flight or your hotel

The most satisfying part about traveling is not your flight or your hotel
A satisfaction study by J.D. Power found that renting cars got the highest satisfaction ratings among all elements of travel. Above, customers board a Hertz rental bus at Los Angeles International Airport. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

It may be difficult to believe but travelers say they are increasingly satisfied with nearly every aspect of their trips.

Even airports, with their crowded food courts and baggage claim carousels that often resemble a poorly lit factory conveyor belt, are getting positive reviews.

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But the most satisfying part of travel today is the car-renting experience, according to a new survey by J.D. Power of 12,068 business and leisure travelers who rented a car at an airport in North America.

On a 1,000-point scale, renting a car at an airport received a rating of 830 points in the satisfaction survey, a 4-point increase over the rating in 2017. That compares with the 825-point rating hotels received in a similar J.D. Power survey this year. Airlines were rated 762 in another satisfaction survey this year while airports got a rating of 761 in a separate survey. The ratings for airlines, airports and hotels all increased in the last year.

A big reason for the improved ratings is that the cost of airfares and hotel stays have remained relatively flat in the last few years. Meanwhile, airports in cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston are investing heavily in upgrades, according to J.D. Power.

Rental car businesses received the highest satisfaction rating in the 23-year history of the J.D. Power survey, an increase that is attributed to the quality of the cars, the price, the improved reservation process and the mobile apps, said Michael Taylor, travel practice lead at J.D. Power.

A representative for Enterprise Holdings — the parent company of Enterprise Rent-a-Car, National Car Rental, Alamo Rent a Car — said it has upgraded some of its apps and websites in the last year to make it easier to find the right car and book a reservation.

“Overall, the car rental business keeps getting more robust, competitive and technological,” said Chrissy Taylor, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Enterprise Holdings.

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