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Fees and cramped seats are fliers' top gripes, Consumer Reports survey finds

May 10, 2011|By Jane Engle | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
  • A worker directs a Southwest Airlines jet at the Denver airport.
A worker directs a Southwest Airlines jet at the Denver airport. (Matthew Staver / Bloomberg )

Airline fees and cramped seats are top complaints of air travelers, according to a Consumer Reports survey that also found fliers rating Southwest Airlines as the best carrier and US Airways as the worst.

The results, released Tuesday, were based on a survey of 14,861 Consumer Reports readers who flew between January 2010 and January 2011. Although they “might not reflect the U.S. population as a whole,” the magazine acknowledged, the results of its first airline survey since 2007 were intriguing.

Among the findings:

-- 40% of readers who said they flew less these days blamed increased fees as the major reason. Far fewer blamed flight delays, poor service or any other problem. Disclosure of fees was a problem for many; 41% said overweight-bag fees “came as a surprise”; 22% said carry-on bag fees had surprised them.

-- Eight of the 10 major airlines in the survey received low scores for seat comfort. JetBlue got the top marks for seat comfort; Southwest ranked No. 2 on that score.

-- Southwest, the No. 1-rated airline overall, scored 87 on a 100-point scale. It also got the top marks for check-in ease and service. US Airways, at the bottom, as it was in the 2007 survey, scored 61 and got the lowest marks of any airline for cabin-crew service.

The full report on the latest survey will be available online to Consumer Reports subscribers, who pay $26 per year, or $5.95 for a one-month pass, and in the June issue of the magazine, said spokesman C. Matt Fields. Magazine subscriptions cost $29 per year.

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