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America’s Airlines Are ‘Awful’

“Asia’s airlines are mostly excellent; Europe’s are competent; America’s are awful.”

That’s the conclusion of an Economist study combining data from, Skytrax, Google Flights, and the airlines themselves.

Helpfully, the study’s conclusions are displayed on a price-versus-service matrix, showing how the airlines fared on a combination of customer satisfaction and price, the key variables that define overall value.

While Asian airlines (Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Singapore, ANA) tended to be the most expensive, they also rated highest for customer satisfaction. American and United were mid-pack for prices, but provided the least satisfying experience of any of the rated airlines. Delta scored higher for satisfaction, and was also judged to be cheaper, so a better value proposition overall.

Upending the widespread assumption that you get what you pay for, the study found that prices were generally comparable, “as you would expect in a competitive market.” Which leads to the following conclusion:

With so little difference in prices between airlines, the savvy traveller might as well opt for the comfiest seats, not the cheapest ones – and plump for Asian luxury over shoddy American service.

From a global perspective, that may be solid advice. But it’s of little help or consolation to travelers flying domestically on U.S. airlines, who enjoy few bargains and must endure shoddy service.

Reader Reality Check

Although not intended as such, the study serves as an argument for allowing foreign carriers to operate U.S. domestic service. Yay or nay?

More from SmarterTravel:

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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