Continental Airlines (for the second consecutive year) and America West Airlines topped the latest J.D. Powers and Associates/Frequent Flyer magazine customer satisfaction survey, but neither airline showed up on the latest Zagat list of top ten domestic carriers. The two surveys use some of the same criteria, but different methods and sampling in rating airlines.
The fifth annual J.D. Powers/Frequent Flyer study, dealing exclusively with U.S. carriers, was based on responses from several thousand air passengers who averaged more than 25 U.S. roundtrips a year. They rated the airlines on several factors including on-time performance (which proved to be the most important criterion in customer satisfaction), schedule/flight accommodations, airport check-in, seating comfort, gate location, aircraft interior, flight attendants, food service, post-flight services, and frequent-flyer programs.
Continental placed first again this year in the long-flight (500 miles and more) category, with America West first for short flights (fewer than 500 miles).
Following Continental for long flights were TWA, United, and a tie between American and Southwest. Placing behind America West for short flights were Continental, U.S. Airways, and a tie between Delta and Southwest.
The 1997 Zagat Airline Survey's top ten domestic airlines list includes Midwest Express, Alaska, American, United, Delta, Kiwi, Midway, Reno Air, Northwest, and Aloha. More than 10,000 frequent flyers responded to the Zagat survey, rating each carrier on a zero to 30 scale in four categories: comfort, service, timeliness, and food.