Reputation Institute / Harris Interactive Study Shows Domestic Airline Reputations Lag Those of International Carriers
According to a new study of airline reputations, Southwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Singapore Airlines and Deutsche Lufthansa are soaring above the competition.
By measuring the attitudes of over 20,000 consumers, the Airline Reputation Quotient (RQ) study rates domestic and foreign airlines on issues ranging from safety and trust to customer service and food. The RQ study was designed and conducted by the Reputation Institute, a private research organization dedicated to advancing knowledge about corporate reputations, and Harris Interactive, a global Internet research firm.
``An airline's reputation is an integral part of its overall performance,'' said Charles Fombrun, Executive Director of the Reputation Institute and Professor of Management at the Stern School of Business (NYU). ``The RQ is a powerful way to quantify public perceptions of an airline's performance. Understanding public perceptions of airlines should be the first step in airline efforts to improve their service, maintain customer loyalty, and compete in the marketplace.''
Using Harris Interactive's database of online respondents, 20,867 U.S. adults were asked to rate 25 airlines on over 20 items. According to their RQs, the top-ranked domestic and foreign airlines are:
Domestic Airlines RQ
1 Southwest Airlines 75.0
2 Delta Airlines 70.0
3 AMR Corp. (American) 69.5
4 UAL Corp. (United) 67.2
5 Continental Airlines 66.0
6 Northwest Airlines 65.9
7 America West Holdings 64.8
8 Trans World Airlines (TWA) 63.3
9 US Airways Group 62.9
10 Alaska Air Group 61.6
Foreign Airlines RQ
1 Singapore Airlines 80.3
2 Deutsche Lufthansa 74.7
3 Scandinavian Airlines System 74.4
4 KLM Royal Dutch Airlines 74.1
5 Qantas Airways Limited 73.1
6 British Airways 72.5
7 Virgin Atlantic Airways 72.3
8 SAirGroup (SwissAir) 72.0
9 Japan Airlines Company (JAL) 69.6
10 Air Canada 68.8
11 All Nippon Airways Co. 67.6
12 Societe Air France 65.9
13 Alitalia 64.5
14 Iberia 60.3
15 Korean Air Lines 54.5
``The RQ study found that foreign-based airlines clearly enjoy a better reputation than most domestic airlines,'' said Gordon S. Black, Chairman and CEO of Harris Interactive. ``Of the fifteen airlines with the highest overall RQ ratings, eleven are international carriers. Domestic carriers also trailed their foreign counterparts in measures of customer service, food, and safety.''
Statistical analysis of the data shows that consumers rate airlines primarily on their perceptions of each airline's service quality, reliability, management strength, workplace, and growth prospects. Airlines that are successful at conveying these traits are more likely to be liked, trusted, and admired by the public.
The analysis also shows that consumers react negatively to airlines that appear strategic and opportunistic. ``Many consumers perceive domestic airlines as aggressive companies with only bottom-line interests,'' says Joy Sever, the RQ practice director at Harris Interactive. ``It clearly lowers their RQs.''
Other notable findings from the Airline RQ Study include:
Customer Service: Singapore Airlines and Southwest Airlines earned high marks for their customer service, followed by Delta Air Lines and Lufthansa.
Business vs. Leisure Travelers: Business travelers gave Southwest Airlines and United Airlines the highest marks, while leisure travelers gave the highest ratings to Southwest and Delta Air Lines among domestic airlines.
Food Quality: Singapore Airlines tops airlines in food quality, and only two domestic carriers cracked the top 10 (Delta Air Lines, #7, and American Airlines, #10).
Safety: Qantas Airways, Singapore Airlines, and Southwest Airlines were perceived as the safest airlines. 61% of respondents say they take safety into account ``a lot'' when choosing an airline.
Financial Performance: General investors gave Japan Airlines (JAL) and KLM top ratings among international carriers, and rated Southwest Airlines and American Airlines tops among domestic carriers.
Crisis Handling: Perhaps as a result of efforts following a recent crash, Alaska Airlines was rated the airline most ``trusted to do the right thing if faced with a crisis.''
Airline Reputation Quotient (RQ) Methodology
The Airline RQ was conducted online using Harris Interactive's database of over 6 million cooperative respondents. A total of 20,867 U.S. adults (18+ years) were interviewed March 3, 2000 through March 10, 2000. Respondents were asked their familiarity with airlines from a prompted list of 25 companies including the 10 U.S. and 15 foreign largest revenue-generating airlines. Respondents were then randomly assigned to rate two airlines from among those with which they were at least ``somewhat'' familiar. Final results were weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population.
RQ scores were calculated for each airline based on respondents' ratings (using 7-point scales) on 20 individual items classified into six key dimensions:
Emotional Appeal: How much the company is liked, admired, and respected.
Products & Services: Perceptions of the quality, innovation, value, and reliability of the company's products & services.
Financial Performance: Perceptions of the company's competitiveness, profitability, growth prospects, and risk.
Vision & Leadership: How much the company demonstrates a clear vision, strong leadership, and an ability to recognize and capitalize on market opportunities.
Workplace Environment: Perceptions of how well the company is managed, how it is to work for, and the quality of its employees.
Social Responsibility: Perceptions of the company as having high standards in its dealings with people, with
good causes, and with the environment.