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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, March 21, 2001

Survey finds airline amenities fall short

USA Today

Airline comfort, service and food are getting worse, according to Zagat's 2001 survey of 31,500 frequent fliers. But Hawaiian Airlines did get high marks for its premium-class meal service, which features the cooking of some of the Islands' best-known chefs.

Travelers' critiques resulted in an overall score of 16.06 on a scale of 30 for 70 domestic and international airlines. That's down 1.43 points from 1998, the year of the previous survey.

"Travelers feel they're being treated like commodities being transferred from one place to another," said Tim Zagat, founder of Zagat, which is best known for its restaurant ratings.

Midwest Express, the Milwaukee-based airline that provides business-class seats at coach prices, ranked No.1 among domestic carriers. Singapore Airlines rated the highest among international airlines.

Midwest Express "spoils fliers" with wide leather seats, free champagne, warm chocolate chip cookies, china, hot towels, "motivated" crews — all "reminders of what's possible in the sky," according to Zagat's description of the airline collected from travelers' responses.

The airline received a score of 26.53.

While international airlines fared better than domestic, their overall ranking fell more sharply from the previous survey. Major international carriers such as Swissair, Lufthansa, British Airways and Air France scored worse on comfort, service and food than in 1998.

"International airlines are competing more aggressively, and they're trying to move as many people for as much money as possible," Zagat said.

Among other praised international airlines were Virgin Atlantic, which moved up in Zagat's rankings from No. 10 to No. 4; Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines.

Other findings:

• Two airlines stand out for their cuisine, Zagat says. They are Midwest Express, for economy-class meals, and Hawaiian, for premium-class meal service.

• Continental Airlines improved the most for domestic and international service.

"Continental has done a lot to improve the attitude of their flight attendants," Zagat says.

Other airlines with improved ratings for domestic service include AirTran, Hawaiian Airlines and Midway. Continental and US Airways had the greatest improvement in international service.

• JetBlue, National and Frontier, three relatively new airlines, moved into Zagat's top 10 in domestic service.

• New York's Kennedy International Airport collected the most votes for worst airport domestically and internationally. London's Heathrow took top honors for best international airport. Zagat says there was no clear winner for best domestic airport.