A new survey investigating which US airlines offer the best "customer experience" has found that most domestic carriers get lackluster ratings and that several carriers are extremely unpopular with the traveling public. The study, conducted by Bruce Temkin of the Temkin Group, found that among 10,000 American travelers, Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines were considered the best domestic carriers for customer service.

According to the Dallas Morning News, customers were asked questions based on three criteria: functionality, accessibility and emotion. Though Southwest was top ranked in the first two categories -- meaning the airline was flexible and helpful to its customers -- Alaska dominated the emotion category, which charts how people felt about their experience on board overall. Still, the study didn't exactly represent a red letter day for either airline as both were awarded only 68% of the points passengers could give to each airline.

It is worth noting that Virgin America, which generally receives accolades for its inventive service, was not included in the study.

Another finding of the survey was that US Airways and American Airlines were the least popular carriers. Their bottom of the barrel ratings led Temkin to observe in a press release that their looming merger "has the potential to become a mega-monster if the new firm doesn’t aggressively improve its customer experience.”

The annual SKYTRAX World Airline Awards, which celebrate industry excellence, are perennially dominated by Asian and Middle Eastern airlines. American airlines, more entrenched and far more casual in their approach to service, generally don't benefit by contrast to, say, Malaysian Airlines, which offers excellent food and solicitous service.

If the new survey shows anything, it is that domestic carriers shouldn't so much be working on making customers' experiences great as they should be focused on making them less miserable.

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  • 9) US Airways: 45%

  • 8) American Airlines: 54%

  • 7) United Airlines: 55%

  • 6) Continental Airlines: 57%

  • 5) Delta/Northwest: 63%

  • 4) JetBlue Airways: 64%

  • 3) AirTran Airways: 65%

  • 2) Southwest Airlines: 68%

  • 1) Alaska Airlines: 68%