What a Trip! Travel Industry Secures Full Rebound

What a Trip! Travel Industry Secures Full Rebound

Satisfaction across airlines, lodging, car rentals, and online travel agencies are on a climb. The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Travel Study for 2023-2024 revealed a significant rebound in satisfaction with airlines, lodging, car rentals, and online travel agencies.

If last year’s across-the-board increase in customer satisfaction suggested a return to normalcy for the travel industry, this year’s ratings solidify it: Travel has fully rebounded!

As the travel industry returns to its pre-pandemic era, customer satisfaction improvement combined with technological advancements are riding the wave. The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Travel Study for 2023-2024 revealed a significant rebound in satisfaction with airlines, lodging, car rentals, and online travel agencies. 

Climb #1 Airlines

Alaska leads the way for the second consecutive year, increasing 1% to an ACSI score of 82. American is second, up 1% to 79.

Low-cost carriers Allegiant (up 4% to 78), Frontier (up 3% to 69), and Spirit (up 5% to 67) make the biggest ACSI gains as they crank up their value propositions, but only Allegiant avoids sitting at the low end of the industry, finishing in third place.

Climb #2 Lodging

After suffering a 15-year ACSI low in 2022, guest satisfaction with lodging bounces back for a second straight year, surging 3% to a score of 77. Hilton (up 3%) also shows two years of solid gains, moving into first place at 81. Despite slipping 1%, Marriott sits in second with an ACSI score of 79.

Airbnb debuts with an above-average ACSI score of 78, proving that its customer experience can compete with major hotel chains that offer a range of business and upscale options such as IHG (up 3% to 78) and Hyatt (down 3% to 78). Meanwhile, Wyndham slumps 3% year over year to finish alone in last place at 70.

Among lodging brands, Hilton reigns supreme, with Hampton, Hilton Garden Inn, and Hilton Hotels & Resorts all at 82. On the flip side, Marriott’s Aloft Hotels and Wyndham’s Baymont and Wyndham Hotels & Resorts are at the bottom with ACSI scores of 74.

Climb #3 Rental services

Customer satisfaction with car rentals, up 1% to 77, continues to rise from a low point in 2022 as demand stabilises and companies upgrade their IT infrastructures to better manage fleets and provide more frictionless experiences for customers.

National races to the top of the industry — and into the top 10 of all companies measured — after surging 8% to an ACSI score of 84. The company substantially improves its mobile app quality and reliability and leads the field for complaint resolution.

Last year’s leader Alamo tumbles 6% into a second-place tie with Avis (down 3%) and Hertz (up 3%) at 78, while Enterprise drops 3% to the industry average score of 77. At the lower end, Dollar is stable at 75, the smaller rental companies climb 4% to 74, and last-place Budget stumbles 4% to an ACSI score of 73.

For the industry overall, staff courtesy improves for both pick-up (81) and drop-off (82), although budget brands trail the industry leaders in this area.

New to ACSI measurement in 2024, the rideshare industry debuts with two major competitors, Lyft and Uber, deadlocked with customer satisfaction scores of 76. Both exhibit strong scores for app use and ride quality.

Climb #4 Online travel agencies

Online travel agencies inch up 1% to an ACSI score of 77.

Booking.com, the most visited travel and tourism website worldwide, assumes the lead after a 3% increase to an ACSI score of 80, remaining well ahead of other Booking Holdings brands — Priceline (up 4% to 76) and Kayak (unchanged at 73).

A steady Expedia comes in second place with a score of 79, followed by the smaller online travel agencies (down 1%) and Travelocity (up 4%) at 78 apiece.

Despite improving 3%, Orbitz, like Kayak, is last with an ACSI score of 73.

Also Read: The Survival of Legacy Brands in a Customer-Centric Era

How are innovations and service improvements leading the change? 

Underscoring the importance of binding innovation and customer satisfaction together, Forrest Morgeson, Associate Professor of Marketing at Michigan State University and Director of Research Emeritus at the ACSI, said, “Airline customer satisfaction has climbed to new heights, reaching scores not seen even before the pandemic disrupted travel. Carriers have bounced back strongly, showing that innovations and service improvements implemented during the last two years have resonated with customers.”

How can brands enhance CX in the travel industry?

  • Industrywide improvements for staff-driven aspects of the customer experience such as check-in and boarding, cabin cleanliness, and staff courtesy, particularly for budget carriers, foresee significant increases in scores for staff-related benchmarks
  • Adoption of technology advancements like contactless check-ins introduced during the pandemic along with improved staffing levels reflect a return to normal operations 
  • Understanding customer perceptions of value in terms of dynamic pricing models, specifically for the rideshare companies