U.S. airlines lift COVID-19 pandemic mask mandates for domestic travel: Complete list of current rules

April 19, 2022

by Frances Peterson

An airport traveler during the COVID-19 mask mandates (Photo by Anna Shvets)

This article will be updated with any breaking news.

As of April 18, 2022, all major U.S. airlines are no longer requiring face masks for passengers and employees on domestic flights (within the United States). This mask mandate had been set to expire on April 18, 2022. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wanted to keep the airline mask mandate in place until May 3, 2022, to further study the BA.2 omicron subvariant of COVID-19. The move come after U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa, Florida, ruled that the federal mask mandate exceeded the authority of the CDC, and the Joe Biden administration agreed with the ruling. Late in the day on April 18, 2022, U.S. airlines began announcing that their mask requirements were now lifted.

Because of the COVD-19 pandemic, U.S. airlines began requiring face masks for all passengers and employees in May 2020. (People were allowed not to wear masks while eating and drinking.) The mask requirement became a federal mandate in January 2021, and it affected U.S. airlines that are under the jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration. The airlines had been pushing for a lift of mask requirements due to a reported massive increase in physical altercations, harassment and verbal abuse that airline employees experienced from passengers who do not want to wear face masks. Even though the mask mandate has been lifted, airline passengers and employees have the option to war face masks if they choose to do so.

It’s important to remember that the liftings of mask restrictions listed above apply to U.S.-based airlines for flights traveling within the United States. Airlines based outside the U.S. and airplane flights outside the U.S. might have different policies. In addition, policies for wearing masks might vary for international airports outside of the United States. If you are traveling outside the U.S., find out the mask policies for the airline and airport before you go to the airport.

Here statements from each of the major U.S.-based airlines, as of April 19, 2022:

ALASKA AIRLINES

Face masks have been like boarding passes for nearly two years — you couldn’t fly without one. But, as of today, masks are optional in airports and onboard aircraft, effective immediately. 

Due to a judicial decision in our federal court system, the mask mandate has been overturned, which means our guests and employees have the option to wear a mask while traveling in the U.S. and at work.

Note: Guests must continue to wear masks on flights both to and from Canada. Masks must still be worn in airports within Canada and Mexico.

Safety is always our highest priority, so while we love to see your smiling faces in the airport and on board, we respect your decision to keep using this added layer of protection. Above all, we hope you’ll treat each other with kindness and respect throughout the travel journey and beyond. 

It has been a long 24 months with nearly constant change. I could not be prouder of our frontline employees who have handled every pivot focusing on safety and the care we’re known for,” said Max Tidwell, VP of safety & security at Alaska Airlines. “We’re also thankful for our guests who remained considerate, patient and stood by us throughout every twist and turn.” 

Even as more pandemic protocols and policies ease, our team will remain vigilant and prepared for whatever may come next. Safety remains our top priority. And while we sincerely hope most of these challenges are in our rear-view mirror, we are confident we will be ready to respond if faced with another COVID wave or even a new virus. 

What happens to guests who were banned because of not following our previous mask policy? Throughout the last two years, we have relied on reporting from agents and flight attendants to ban noncompliant guests from traveling while the federal mask policy remained in effect. Based on our reports, we will have some guests whose behavior was particularly egregious who will remain banned, even after the mask policy is rescinded.  

As always, we will continue to hold safety as our highest value. Thank you again to our loyal guests and team of 22,000 people who came together over the last two years to do the right thing and take care of one another. We’ve proven we can do anything together.  

AMERICAN AIRLINES

American Airlines has prioritized the health and safety of its team members and customers throughout the pandemic and has supported the federal government’s measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. In accordance with the Transportation Security Administration no longer enforcing the federal face mask mandate, face masks will no longer be required for our customers and team members at U.S. airports and on domestic flights. Please note face masks may still be required based on local ordinances, or when traveling to/from certain international locations based on country requirements. In keeping with our commitment to creating a welcoming environment for everyone who travels with us, customers and team members may choose to continue to wear masks at their own discretion. We are deeply grateful to our team members for their enforcement of the mandate, and will share more information about this transition in the coming days.

BREEZE AIRWAYS

Facemasks are no longer required on Breeze flights for both Guests and Team Members.
Please be kind and respectful of individual choices, and remember that wearing a mask while flying on Breeze is still an option.

DELTA AIRLINES

Following the ruling of a U.S. district court judge on Monday, the Biden administration announced that the Transportation Security Administration will no longer enforce the federal mandate requiring masks in all U.S. airports and on board aircraft. Effective immediately, masks are optional for all airport employees, crew members and customers inside U.S. airports and on board all aircraft domestically, as well as on most international flights.

Delta employees and customers may continue wearing masks if they so choose. Wearing a well-fitting mask –  such as a KN95 – protects the wearer, even if others around them are not wearing masks, according to our Chief Health Officer Dr. Henry Ting.

Given the unexpected nature of this announcement, please be aware that customers, airline employees and federal agency employees, such as TSA, may be receiving this information at different times. You may experience inconsistent enforcement during the next 24 hours as this news is more broadly communicated – remember to show understanding and patience with others who may not be aware enforcement is no longer required. Communications to customers and in-airport signage and announcements will be updated to share that masking is now optional – this may take a short period of time.

Local mask mandates in other countries may still be in effect. Additional updates will be provided as new information becomes available.

We are relieved to see the U.S. mask mandate lift to facilitate global travel as COVID-19 transitions to a more manageable respiratory virus – with better treatments, vaccines and other scientific measures to prevent serious illness. Thank you for your support in complying with the federal mask mandate and keeping each other safe during the pandemic.

FRONTIER AIRLINES

To mask or not to mask, the choice is yours. Masks are now optional on domestic flights, however, certain airports or countries may still require masks, so check the policy at your destination prior to departure and we’ll see you in the sky.

HAWAIIAN AIRLINES

In alignment with TSA’s Security Directive, face masks are optional for our guests and employees onboard Hawaiian Airlines flights. We advise travelers to stay informed and follow mask requirements that may remain in effect at their origin or arrival airports. Guests who wish to continue wearing face masks are welcome to do so. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we update our communications and announcements to reflect this change.

JETBLUE AIRWAYS

In line with Monday’s federal court ruling and the Transportation Security Administration’s guidance, mask wearing will now be optional on JetBlue. While no longer required, customers and crewmembers are welcome to continue wearing masks in our terminals and on board our aircraft.

Regardless of the U.S. rule change, customers and crew members who are traveling internationally should always have a mask with them in case they continue to be required at their destination. 

We are working to proactively share this update with our customers and crewmembers, so please be patient as we update our communications.   

SOUTHWEST AIRLINES

On Monday, a federal judge issued a decision stating the federal mask mandate for public transportation, including on airlines and at airports, is no longer in effect. Thereafter, the White House announced the masking order is not in effect, and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will not enforce the federal mask mandate at this time.

As a result of this development, effective immediately, Southwest Employees and Customers will be able to choose whether they would like to wear a mask on flights, at domestic ​airports, and at some international locations. We encourage individuals to make the best decision to support their personal wellbeing. Additionally, Southwest will continue supporting the comfort of those who travel with us by offering additional layers of protection, including sophisticated cabin air ventilation systems onboard our aircraft which incorporate HEPA air filtration that removes at least 99.97% of airborne particles.

We appreciate the cooperation and compliance efforts of our Customers and Employees as policies have evolved. We’ll continue to monitor public health guidance, and federal requirements, while always keeping safety as our uncompromising priority. 

For additional information, we also invite you to contact Airlines for America, our trade association, for an industry perspective on this development.

SPIRIT AIRLINES

 Face masks are now optional for Spirit Team Members and Guests onboard our flights following the federal court ruling and TSA guidance.

We understand some Guests may want to continue wearing face coverings on flights, and that’s perfectly fine under our optional policy. For our Guests traveling internationally, please remember to check country-specific airport requirements before traveling.

SUN COUNTRY AIRLINES

Thank you Sun Country guests for your patience and for masking up. Effective immediately, wearing a mask on Sun Country flights is optional for our passengers and employees. We look forward to seeing your smiles on board and encourage kindness and respect for those who continue to mask.

UNITED AIRLINES

Masks are no longer required on domestic flights, select international flights (dependent upon the arrival country’s requirements) or at U.S. airports. More comfortable keeping yours on? Go right ahead… the choice is yours.

While this means that our employees are no longer required to wear a mask—and no longer have to enforce a mask requirement for most of the flying public—they will be able to wear masks if they choose to do so, as the CDC continues to strongly recommend wearing a mask on public transit. We will continue to closely monitor the situation in the event of changes.

Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines announce merger

February 7, 2022

(Image courtesy of Spirit Airlines)

The following are excerpts from a Spirit Airlines press release:

Today we announced that Spirit and Frontier have signed a definitive merger agreement under which we plan to combine to bring more ultra-low fares to more travelers in more destinations across the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean. We are excited about this combination and believe it will have tremendous benefits for consumers, Team Members, and shareholders.

COVID-19
Since its initial onset in early 2020, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has evolved and continues to be fluid. Therefore, the Company’s financial and operational outlook remains subject to change. The Company continues to monitor the impact of the pandemic on its operations and financial condition, and to adjust its mitigation and operational strategies accordingly. Spirit has implemented measures for the safety of its Guests and Team Members as well as to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on its financial position and operations. Please see the Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the period ending December 31, 2021 for additional disclosures regarding these measures.

The Company believes that providing analysis of financial and operational performance compared to fourth quarter 2019 is a more relevant measure of performance due to the severe impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic on our financial results and operational performance for 2020.

Fourth Quarter 2021 Results
Adjusted EBITDA for the fourth quarter 2021 was $14.9 million. The Company had an unusual number of operational disruptions and flight cancellations during the peak December 2021 holiday period, due to staffing shortages as a result of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. The irregular operations during the peak December 2021 holiday period negatively impacted fourth quarter 2021 Adjusted EBITDA by approximately $30 million, primarily due to additional passenger re-accommodation expenses and higher labor expenses, partially offset by lower fuel expense and landing fees. Despite this impact, Adjusted EBITDA margin for the fourth quarter 2021 was 1.5 percent, better than the Company’s initial expectations of flat to negative 5 percent. 

Forward Looking Guidance
Given the merger transaction announced today, the Company is not providing guidance at this time.

Full Year 2021 Highlights

Our People

  • In 2021, Spirit maintained its focus on building an engaged workforce, while navigating COVID-19’s impact on its Team Members and a tightening labor market. The Company grew its workforce to 10,287 Team Members to support its growing organization, had the honor to be named as one of FORTUNE’s Most Admired Companies, and received Glassdoor’s OpenCompany designation, which recognizes employers that proactively promote and embrace workplace transparency
  • Spirit launched a comprehensive Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Belonging strategy in 2021, to drive meaningful change within the organization and the communities it serves. This includes employee resource groups (ERGs) organized by Team Members in order to ensure they all have a voice in paving our path; providing education to increase awareness of systemic inequities and to reduce bias; and a new Supplier Diversity program around a network of minority-owned business partners and diverse suppliers

Recognitions and Accomplishments

  • Spirit was one of only three U.S. airlines listed on FORTUNE’s 2021 list of World’s Most Admired® Companies
  • Spirit was awarded Platinum status by the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) Health Safety initiative powered by SimpliFlying for the airline’s efforts in ensuring the highest standards of cleanliness and sanitization. The rating was the highest of any low-fare carrier in the world, and the certification recognizes Spirit for going above and beyond the required and truly investing in health and safety for Guests and Team Members
  • Spirit was recognized by Forbes as one of America’s best companies for diversity, equity and inclusion. Forbes’ fourth annual list of America’s Best Employers For Diversity ranks the 500 employers that boast the most diverse boards and executive ranks, as well as the most proactive diversity and inclusion initiatives
  • Spirit received two prestigious awards for its Self-Bag Drop and Biometric technology: The Company was a Gold Stevie winner from the Transportation category of the American Business Awards® program, and was named Best Airport Innovation in the APEX/IFSA Awards
  • For the fourth year in a row, Spirit has achieved the FAA’s highest award for Technical Training, the Diamond Award of Excellence. This award is only achieved if 100% of technicians receive the FAA’s Aircraft Maintenance Technician (“AMT”) Certificate of Training.

Supporting our Communities

  • Spirit is committed to inspiring positive change in the communities it serves, supporting local nonprofit organizations throughout its network via in-kind donations and Team Member volunteerism
  • Alongside the Company’s efforts, the Spirit Airlines Charitable Foundation invested over $500,000 in non-profit organizations that have meaningful social impact on the lives of children and families, service members and the environment

Environmental, Social, Governance

  • Spirit issued its inaugural 2020 Sustainability Report, showcasing results of the airline’s longstanding commitment to meaningful advancements in environmental sustainability, Guest and community service, Team Member support, and governance. Despite the global impact of COVID-19, Spirit remained dedicated to integrating environmental, social, and governance (“ESG”) practices into its business. The report highlights Spirit’s plans for continued progress in broadening ESG initiatives and improving communities and society at large. The Company’s 2020 Sustainability report is available at ir.spirit.com

Guest Experience and Loyalty

  • Spirit launched a new Free Spirit® loyalty program in 2021—which offers the fastest way to earn rewards and status—alongside the new Spirit Saver$ Club®. Spirit also unveiled a pair of new credit cards with benefits that make every aspect of the new Free Spirit fly faster and further. The new Free Spirit is built around points because rewards will be based on dollars spent instead of miles flown. Members can earn points on every booking, every bag and every Big Front Seat®—plus all kinds of purchases on the new Free Spirit credit cards
  • Spirit continued its progress on Wi-Fi antennae installations with more than 100 aircraft completed in 2021. As of year-end, the Company was conducting initial Wi-Fi testing on a limited number of planes. Guests onboard these flights were able to access the Wi-Fi service at a reduced rate during this temporary trial period.

Upgraded Points survey shows 1 in 5 Americans won’t travel again until 2021, citing coronavirus concerns

April 1, 2020

The following is a press release from Upgrade Points:

Upgraded Points recently released its newest targeted study featuring a survey based on questions given to airline travelers concerning the recent global pandemic. The study seeks to understand American travelers’ plans and concerns, helping to better illuminate the travel crisis as it unfolds; while also delivering important data about the American airline industry itself—which recently asked for and will receive a reported $50 billion bailout from the U.S. government. Upgraded points is a trusted source for a wide variety of similar in-depth airline studies, as well as advice and pointers for travelers.

1 in 5 Americans said they aren’t going to travel again until 2021. Conversely, from the time of the study, about 20% said they would travel again in the next 6 weeks.

“The airline industry is in a great deal of trouble again,” said Alex Miller, Founder of Upgraded Points. “They’ve certainly seen their share of difficulty over the years: after 9/11, during the 2008 economic downturn, etc. But this is probably the worst crisis the industry has ever faced. Without millions of travelers on planes and in airports, the industry just can’t make the revenue it needs to survive. Whole countries are asking citizens to stay indoors, and that includes enforcing travel restrictions and closing borders. No one knows exactly when this global pandemic will peak and then begin to recede. So all we can do now is wait, and gather valuable data to help understand the situation as it happens. That is the goal of this particular study.”

Analysis Methodology

The study surveyed 1,250 people in the U.S., asking a variety of questions related to their travel plans, concerns around those plans, and asking them to identify what would make them feel most comfortable about traveling again. The results were compiled into a series of detailed tables and lists that give exact percentages based on the answers received. The makeup of those surveyed include 55% male and 45% female, further broken down into six different age range groups, representing adults aged 18 through 65 and up. By far, the largest group of those surveyed fell into the 26–34 range, representing 39% of the whole.

Biggest Travel Concerns: Questions About Fears

Overall, the majority of Americans questioned clearly stated that their biggest traveling concern was the COVID-19 virus. But the study broke that question down into a variety of other specific concerns to help reveal the nuanced complexities around the topic. When asked what worried them most—contracting the virus personally or passing it on to others—the majority of Americans responded they were most concerned about contracting the virus themselves. Though 32% of those asked did express concerns about passing the disease on to others, while still others expressed concern about becoming part of overall community spread. These results are further categorized into specific age ranges as well. Please see the study for full details.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest fear travelers have is contracting COVID-19 from traveling and then spreading it to family and friends.

How and When Will Americans Feel Comfortable About Traveling Again?

Americans were also asked when they plan to begin traveling again, under what circumstances, and at which airline ticket price. The answers were arranged based on the choices given: an immediate time frame (the next two weeks), then monthly, all the way into 2021. The overwhelming majority stated they had no plans to travel again until 2021, representing 20% of those surveyed.

Americans were also given a series of factors to choose from, representing what would make them feel more comfortable traveling, and at which ticket prices. Factor choices given include: Enough Time Has Passed, No New COVID-19 Cases, and Government or Health Officials Give the “All-Clear” to Travel. The results were compiled into percentages, price ranges and further classified into specific age groups.

To see the exact numbers and percentage breakdowns by age, as well as bar graphs and helpful pie charts used for visual comparison, please visit the full study HERE.

About Upgraded Points LLC

Headquartered in Austin, Texas, Upgraded Points is a travel company that provides insider strategies on maximizing travel points and rewards. Launched in 2016 by Alex Miller, Upgraded Points uses targeted research efforts and in-depth studies to give travelers, as well as those looking to travel a real understanding of how to maximize their points and miles. Learn more at: www.UpgradedPoints.com.

United Airlines reaches settlement with Dr. David Dao

April 27, 2017

United Airlines

United Airlines has reached an out-of-court settlement with Dr. David Dao, the 69-year-old passenger who was severely injured while being dragged off of a United flight at Chicago’s  O’Hare Airport on April 9, 2017. Terms of the settlement are confidential, according to statements released by both parties. Dao’s injuries included a broken nose, a concussion and two teeth that were knocked out during the altercation.

Videos of the incident that were taken by other passengers went viral, and United faced a public relations nightmare over its treatment of Dao, who apparently sustained most of his injuries when his head hit an armrest. United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz received a firestorm of public criticism for initially blaming Dao in an internal company memo, and there were massive calls for Munoz to be fired and for people to boycott United. After United’s  stock value had a significant decrease two days after the incident, Munoz made several public apologies and said United would take full responsibility for how it mishandled everything. The airline also said it would reimburse all the passengers that were on the flight.

Dao, a Kentucky resident, had been forcibly removed by airport security after he refused to give up his seat and to get re-booked on another flight. United said it randomly chose him and three other paying customers to involuntarily give up their seats for four United employees who had arrived on short notice to the fully booked flight. Before Dao was removed, United had asked for volunteers to give up their seats but had no takers after offering $800 in incentives. The $800 was far below the $1,350 maximum that United was allowed to offer at the time. A video taken by a passenger showed Dao on the phone to United’s customer service saying that he did not want to give up his seat because he had to see patients the next day. Dao also said that if he was forced to leave the plane, he would have to be dragged off, and he would sue if it happened.

After the scandal broke, United changed its policy to offer a maximum of $10,000 to passengers who volunteer to be bumped from overbooked or oversold flights. The airline also announced other policy changes, including no longer calling airport security to remove a paying customer who has already been seated on the plane. After the settlement was reached, United said it would reduce, but not eliminate, overbooking for its flights.

The three airport law enforcement officers who dragged Dao from the plane were employed by the Chicago Department of Aviation and have been placed on leave. The week before the settlement was reached, Munoz announced that no one from United would be fired because of the incident.

Dao’s attorney Thomas Demetrio told the Associated Press, “I praise Mr. Munoz and his people for not trying to throw the city under the bus or pass the buck. He stood in front of the world and has stated that, ‘We, United, take full responsibility.'”

Demetrio added that it was”unheard of” for a company to admit responsibility so quickly and completely. I hope corporate America notices when you goof up, people respect you a heck of a lot more when you admit it, instead of making people go through three years of depositions, motions, court hearings.”

United released a statement saying that all parties have reached “an amicable resolution of the unfortunate incident that occurred aboard Flight 3411.”

American Customer Satisfaction Index 2017 survey ranks the best and worst airlines, hotels, online travel services

April 25, 2017

American Customer Satisfaction Index

The following is a press release from American Customer Satisfaction Index:

Passenger satisfaction is up compared to a year ago, but airlines remain in the bottom third of industries tracked by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). As the largest airlines lower their ticket prices to compete with discount carriers, the industry gains 4.2 percent to 75 on a 100-point scale. The ACSI results are based on thousands of customer interviews conducted over 12 months, ending in March 2017.

“Customer satisfaction has never appeared to be a goal for airlines,” says Claes Fornell, ACSI Chairman and founder. “Compared to other industries, the financial return on passenger satisfaction is not much of an incentive. The exception is in the few airports where airlines actually compete with one another – or when they treat passengers spectacularly badly in public.”

United’s violent removal of a passenger was captured on social media, but is not reflected in the ACSI results as it occurred after the completion of data collection. However, the incident did cause a fall in the company’s stock price. It is unclear how much impact it will have on future passenger satisfaction as United already has the lowest score among the legacy airlines.
Airlines.

According to passengers, the best airlines are JetBlue, Southwest and Alaska. JetBlue leads the industry with a 2-percent improvement to an ACSI score of 82, edging ahead of second-place Southwest, which is unchanged at 80. JetBlue’s low-cost business model and cabin upgrades appear to be paying off. Southwest continues to please passengers with policies like no charges for flight changes and no hidden extra fees. And unlike legacy carriers, the two airlines have a better track record for compensating passengers on overbooked flights.

Alaska Airlines is next, up 1 percent to 78 amid the early stages of absorbing Virgin America. Mergers tend to have a negative impact on customer satisfaction, but Alaska appears to be handling the transition rather well.

American (+6%) and Delta (+7%) tie at 76 – a record-high for American and the best score for Delta in more than two decades. The gains in passenger satisfaction are largely driven by price, but the customer experience also has improved. Over the past four years, American has invested roughly $20 billion in new aircraft, and passenger satisfaction has increased by 15 percent during that time. While Delta experienced a multitude of cancellations following bad weather in April, this occurred after the data collection period. Earlier in the year, computer outages caused a rough patch, but the company’s efforts to improve service, including the addition of in-flight meals on longer routes, appears to be sitting well with customers.

United is the lowest-scoring legacy airline, despite edging up 3 percent to 70. The combined score for “all other” smaller airlines is stable at 74. Allegiant is the most improved this year (+9% to 71). Frontier and Spirit, however, register declining passenger satisfaction. Frontier drops 5 percent to 63, followed by Spirit in last place (-2% to 61).

“Apparently, low ticket prices are not enough of a trade-off for low service quality,” says ACSI Director, David VanAmburg, “Particularly as most airlines now also compete on price.”
Hotels

Guest satisfaction with hotels is up 2.7 percent to an ACSI score of 76, driven by gains for smaller hotels and B&Bs. With the rise of online hospitality brokers like Airbnb, travelers have more choices than ever before, forcing hotel operators to compete on both price and customer service.

Hilton guests are the most satisfied (81), and Hyatt (+1%) ties Marriott (unchanged) for second place at 80. Marriott’s Starwood brand is just a notch below (+1% to 79) followed by InterContinental (+3% to 78). Best Western, La Quinta and Choice are in the range of 76 to 74, while the combined score of all other smaller hotels and B&Bs is up 3 percent to 74. Wyndham (+1% to 71) lags most of the major hoteliers, but G6 Hospitality (Motel 6) is in last place (65).

Among hotel brands, luxury offering JW Marriott tops the chart (85), while upscale Hilton Garden Inn and Hyatt Place share the next spot at 84. Starwood’s Aloft, part of the Marriott family, comes in at 83, alongside Hilton’s Embassy Suites Hotels.

Wyndham holds the top-rated midscale property, Baymont Inn & Suites (76), as well as the best economy brand, Days Inn (67). However, the Wyndham family also has the lowest-ranked chain in the industry – Super 8 (63).

InterContinental’s most satisfying brand is Holiday Inn Express (79), which scores equal to Courtyard by Marriott, Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, and Hampton by Hilton. Midscale brands Best Western and La Quinta Inns & Suites score on par with Sheraton (75), Marriott’s upper upscale chain by Starwood.
Internet Travel Services

Customer satisfaction with travel websites for booking flights, hotels and car rentals is steady at 79. Expedia gains 4 percent to 80 and ties with the combined score of smaller travel websites (+1%). Other brands of the Expedia family, Orbitz (+1% to 78) and Travelocity (-1% to 77), are somewhat lower, as is competitor Priceline (77). Priceline’s score deteriorates 5 percent this year, dropping the company out of the lead it held in 2016.

The ACSI report, which is based on 8,660 customer surveys collected between April 18, 2016, and March 19, 2017, is available for free download.

Harris Poll’s 2017 EquiTrend Study names the top travel brands of the year

April 19, 2017

The Harris Poll’s 29th annual EquiTrend Study reveals 2017’s strongest brands across the media, travel, financial, automotive, entertainment, retail, restaurant, technology, household and nonprofit industries, based on consumer response.

Measuring brand health over time, the EquiTrend Brand Equity Index is comprised of three factors—Familiarity, Quality and Purchase Consideration—that result in a brand equity rating for each brand. According to a Harris Poll press release, the brands ranking highest in equity receive the Harris Poll EquiTrend “Brand of the Year” award for their respective categories. This year, more than 100,000 U.S. consumers assessed more than 4,000 brands across more than 450 categories.

Here are the top-ranking brands in the travel industry:

Full Service Airline Brand of the Year

  1. American Airlines
  2. Alaska / Horizon Airlines
  3. Hawaiian Airlines
  4. Delta Air Lines
  5. United Airlines
Other Full Service Airline brands in study ranked below category average (alphabetically): Air Canada, US Airways

 

Value Airline Brand of the Year

  1. Southwest Airlines
  2. Virgin America Airlines
Other Value Airline brands in study ranked below category average (alphabetically): Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Spirit Airlines

 

Cruise Line Brand of the Year

  1. Royal Caribbean International
  2. Holland America Cruise Line
  3. Princess Cruises
Other Cruise Line brands in study ranked below category average (alphabetically): Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line

 

Economy Hotel Brand of the Year

  1. Microtel Inn & Suites
  2. Days Inn
  3. Americas Best Value Inn
  4. EconoLodge
Other Economy Hotel brands in study ranked below category average (alphabetically): Motel 6, Red Roof Inn, Rodeway Inn, Super 8

 

Extended Stay Hotel Brand of the Year

  1. Homewood Suites by Hilton
  2. Home2 Suites by Hilton
  3. TownePlace Suites
  4. MainStay Suites
Other Extended Stay Hotel brands in study ranked below category average (alphabetically): Candlewood Suites, Extended Stay America, Residence Inn

 

Luxury Hotel Brand of the Year

  1. J.W. Marriott
  2. Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts
  3. Grand Hyatt
Other Luxury Hotel brands in study ranked below category average (alphabetically): Conrad Hotels & Resorts, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Omni Hotels & Resorts, Park Hyatt, The Ritz Carlton, W Hotels and Resorts, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts

 

Midscale Hotel Brand of the Year

  1. Hampton Inn & Suites
  2. Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts
  3. Wyndham Garden Hotels
  4. Holiday Inn Express Hotels & Resorts
  5. Fairfield Inns and Suites
  6. Wingate by Wyndham
  7. Comfort Suites
  8. Country Inns & Suites by Carlson
Other Midscale Hotel brands in study ranked below category average (alphabetically): Best Western Hotels, Clarion Hotels, Comfort Inn, Drury Hotels, Howard Johnson Hotels, LaQuinta Inns & Suites, Quality Inn & Suites, Ramada Hotels, Sleep Inn Hotels

 

Premium Hotel Brand of the Year

 

  1. Hilton Hotels & Resorts / Marriott Hotels (tied)
  2. Hyatt Hotels and Resorts
  3. Kimpton Hotels
Other Premium Hotel brands in study ranked below category average (alphabetically): Embassy Suites, Renaissance Hotels, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, Westin Hotels & Resorts, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts

 

Upscale Hotel Brand of the Year

  1. Courtyard Marriott
  2. SpringHill Suites
  3. Hilton Garden Inn
Other Upscale Hotel brands in study ranked below category average (alphabetically): Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Doubletree by Hilton, Hyatt Place Hotels, Radisson Hotels & Resorts

Rental Car Brand of the Year

  1. Enterprise Rent-A-Car
  2. Hertz Car Rental
  3. Avis Rent A Car
Other Rental Car brands in study ranked below category average (alphabetically): Alamo Rent A Car, Budget Rent A Car, Dollar Rent A Car, National Car Rental, Thrifty Car Rental

Online Travel Service Brand of the Year

  1. TripAdvisor
  2. Expedia
  3. Hotels.com
  4. Booking.com
Other Online Travel Service brands in study ranked below category average (alphabetically): Hotwire, KAYAK, Orbitz, Priceline.com, Travelocity, Trivago

 

United Airlines public relations nightmare: 5 reasons why it won’t really change how airlines and customers treat each other

April 12, 2017

by John Larson

United Airlines

United Airlines has lost millions of dollars and the trust of many of its customers and those who travel because of the way the company handled passenger Dr. David Dao, a 69-year-old Kentucky resident who was forcibly removed by law enforcement when he refused to voluntarily give up his seat on United flight 3411 going from Chicago to Louisville on April 9, 2017.  United had requested that four passengers volunteer to give up their seats after four United employees showed up needing the seats to get to a required destination. After none of the flight’s passengers volunteered to give up their seats with voucher and compensation incentives, Dao was one of four passengers randomly selected to be removed involuntarily.

Videos of the incident that were taken by airline passengers show a screaming Dao being dragged off the plane with his mouth bloodied. He apparently sustained the injuries when his refusal to leave the plane resulted in an aggressive, physical altercation. The three other passengers who were involuntarily removed for the same reason left peacefully. In the end, although Dao was seen running back on the plane, he was not allowed to board the flight.

Countless people have expressed outrage at United and how the incident was handled, and they don’t think it’s enough that United has made multiple apologies and offered ticket reimbursement for all the passengers on the flight. There have been people calling for United CEO Oscar Munoz to be fired, for people to boycott United, and for United to be sued. Three of the law-enforcement employees involved in the altercation have already been suspended. These employees are not police officers but are security personnel employed by the Chicago Department of Aviation who were called in by the United flight crew who said that Dao needed to be removed from the plane.

There has been a lot of analysis about what United and/or Dao should have done to prevent the incident. And it’s opened a floodgate of long-simmering anger that people have toward airlines and the declining quality of customer service while airlines continue to increase their fees. Many people have brought Dao’s race/ethnicity and his criminal record (for illegal prescriptions) into the discussion, but in the end, he represents what can happen to any airline passenger under the same unfortunate circumstances and decisions.

Despite all the damage done, United Airlines will survive this scandal. The short-term effect is that airlines will probably improve procedures on how to handle overbooking, bumped passengers on to other flights, and removing people who refuse to de-board a plane for whatever reason. Some smaller airlines that have better reputations in customer service will probably see an increase in business, but not enough to surpass dominant U.S. airline companies such as United and American. The long-term effect is that the airline business will go on as usual, and here’s why:

1. Everything that United did was legal in most airlines’ customer policies. As has been pointed out in many news reports about the scandal, people who buy airplane tickets agree to the legal terms of service (the fine print on airline tickets that most people don’t read), which includes the disclosure that the flight is never guaranteed as advertised. Delays, cancellations, overbooking and being a passenger who is considered a “flight risk” can all result in a passenger not being allowed to be on that flight as originally scheduled.

2. In a post-9/11 world, airline passengers have to be careful about how their words and actions are perceived by airline employees and other authorities. Passengers involved in altercations on a plane, even verbal altercations, can be labeled a “flight risk” and can be forcibly removed. People who are suspected of being a danger or being a threat to employees and other passengers, even by joking about terrorism, can be forcibly removed. People who are disturbingly intoxicated or need immediate medical attention can be forcibly removed. Passengers are more likely to be blamed if they do not peacefully cooperate with authorities from the airline or airport.

As unfair as it may sound, this is today’s reality of flying on any airline. How the airlines treat customers who become “difficult” is a matter of debate. Most people agree that United should have handled the Dr. Dao situation better, once it became clear how upset he was becoming when he was asked to leave his seat. A smarter and better-trained flight crew would have immediately diffused the situation by upping the incentives for another passenger to calmly leave the plane instead of Dao. But once Dao’s demeanor became highly agitated and uncooperative (which can automatically get a passenger labeled as “belligerent”) and once the altercation became physical, it was unlikely that the authorities were going to let him back on the plane.

Even though Munoz said in an ABC News interview that United will never again call law enforcement on a paying customer who has already boarded a plane, it’s hard to believe that this policy will be permanent in a world where there is terrorism and other crimes committed on airplanes and in airports. Airlines and airports still have to bring in law enforcement to deal with people who are suspected of being a physical danger to passengers and employee. This statement from Munoz appears to be United shifting the blame on airport security instead of taking steps to improve its booking policies to prevent re-accommodated customers from getting upset in the first place.

3. The scandal will not improve overall customer service from airlines. Flights will still be late and overbooked. Perks that used to be included with seating in the coach area (free meals, free blankets and pillows, free movies) are not coming back for almost all airlines. And airline food will never be up to most restaurants’ standards.

4. Despite calls to boycott United, many people who have flown United in the past will still consider booking a United flight sometime in the future if it means it will save them money. United has no doubt permanently lost many customers, but studies have shown that people will overlook bad experiences with an airline if they can save money either on a plane ticket or through rewards/frequent flier programs. Even though many people are sympathetic to Dr. Dao, the harsh reality is that people will still fall back into old habits when it comes to their airline preferences. For most airline customers, it’s not so much a matter of brand loyalty and choosing the most “ethical” airline, but it’s about convenience and getting the best deal. And with airline mergers happening more frequently in the past decade, people’s choices have becoming increasingly limited in which airlines to use. United will still be one of the dominant airline companies, long after this scandal has passed.

5. The scandal will not give passengers an excuse to go against airline rules in order to get their way. People who are foolish enough to think that the Dr. Dao/United Airlines incident now gives them permission to cause disruptions or delay a flight as a protest against an airline’s rules and policies will also find themselves removed from the flight and, in some extreme cases, banned by the airline. The best way that customers can protest against a company is to peacefully take their business elsewhere and let the offending company know it.

April 14, 2017 UPDATE: An attorney representing Dr. Dao held a press conference on April 14 to announce that Dao had two of his teeth knocked out, a broken nose and a concussion as a result of the altercation on United Airlines. The attorney also stated that Dao will probably file a lawsuit.

In addition, as stated previously in this article, the short-term effects have already started to take place.

  • United Airlines has announced that it is now requiring crew members to be booked on a flight at least 60 minutes before the flight’s departure time.
  • American Airlines has changed its booking policy to state that paying passengers cannot be bumped from a flight for re-accommodation purposes once they have been seated on the flight.
  • Delta has increased the monetary amount that it will offer to bumped passengers. Gate employees can now offer up to $2,000 (an increase from the previous maximum of $800), while a supervisor can offer up to $9,900 (an increase from the previous maximum of $1,350).

None of these airlines has pledged to improve customer service in other areas.

April 27, 2017 UPDATE: United Airlines has reached an out-of-court settlement with Dr. Dao. Get more details here.

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