by Natalie Paris from The Telegraph, August 10, 2017
In an age when airlines are cutting back on passenger comforts such as free food, leg room and the freedom to sit next to loved ones, one airline has built up a steady following among frequent fliers for being more generous than most.
Ask people working in the travel industry in the US their prefered carrier and most will point to Southwest Airlines.
At a time when British Airways is slashing overheads to help it compete with no-frills rivals, Southwest is courting passengers by seemingly paying attention to the details that matter.
A recent poll from YouGov in America found that 35 per cent of people who worked within the travel, restaurant or hotel business named the Dallas-based carrier as their favourite airline.
This was more than twice as many as those who picked Amercian Airlines (15 per cent).
Delta came in third among travel industry professionals, taking 11 per cent of the love.
It was also rated best by the majority of respondents who belonged to travel rewards programmes - 27 per cent of those surveyed.
Why? The airline offers some attractive perks.
Firstly, passengers are allowed to check in two bags for free, a policy unique among airlines in the US. Southwest might also be more highly regarded than United Airlines, because, following the debacle where staff working for United were filmed dragging a doctor off one of their flights, Southwest came out and promised never to overbook a flight themselves.
"The last thing that we want to do is deny a customer their flight," Southwest CEO Gary Kelly told CNBC at the time.
United was thought best by only 8 per cent of survey respondents.
Friends of Southwest fliers benefit also and are offered a “companion pass” that enables them to fly for free, or nearly for free, if they are travelling with a signed-up frequent traveller.
Southwest is not the only American airline to be trying to please rather than disappoint customers. Delta, earlier this year, revelaed that it had listened to customer opinions on its service and decided to bring back in-flight free food.
Lisa Bauer, the airline's vice president of on-board services, said in an interview in February: "People appreciate not being nickel-and-dimed on these long flights. We believe this will be a competitive advantage."
Among travel rewards members, the second favourite airline was Delta, with 21 per cent of the vote, followed by American Airlines with 18 per cent, United with ten per cent, JetBlue Airways with 8 per cent and Alaska with 6 per cent.
One of the most respected annual rankings of airlines is the World Airline Awards organised by Skytrax. In June Qatar Airways was placed first ahead of Singapore Airlines in second and ANA All Nippon Airways in third.
The world's 20 best airlines, according to Skytrax
- Qatar Airways (+1)
- Singapore Airlines (+1)
- ANA All Nippon Airways (+2)
- Emirates (-3)
- Cathay Pacific (-1)
- EVA Air (+2)
- Lufthansa (+3)
- Etihad (-2)
- Hainan Airlines (+3)
- Garuda Indonesia (+1)
- Thai Airways (+2)
- Turkish Airlines (-5)
- Virgin Australia (+5)
- Swiss (+1)
- Qantas (-6)
- Japan Airlines (+5)
- Austrian (+2)
- Air France (-4)
- Air New Zealand (-2)
- Asiana (-4)