These Travel Companies Have The Best Customer Service


If you want a great customer service experience the next time you travel, look for brands with established service reputations. That’s the conclusion of a new consumer survey, which found that storied brands like Disney, Marriott and Samsonite are among travelers’ favorites.

The Elliott Advocacy Readers’ Choice Awards revealed that, for the most part, the airlines, car rental companies and hotels with strong customer service reputations deserve them. But there were one or two upsets. More on that in a minute.

My nonprofit organization, Elliott Advocacy, created the Readers’ Choice award 14 years ago because no industry award served the needs of travelers. The existing accolades were little more than beauty pageants that tended to work in a similar way: a panel of judges with deep industry ties evaluated companies based on a set of criteria that meant nothing to consumers.

I wanted to flip the script, so I started by asking readers who they thought had the best service.

And the award for best customer service in travel goes to …

Here are the 2019 winners by industry:

Airline (domestic): Southwest Airlines

Last year’s rank: 1

How they did it: Southwest has some of the most loyal customers. It doesn’t always have the lowest fares, but it has the fairest fees in the industry and an unbeatable customer service culture.

Airline (international): Virgin Atlantic

Last year’s rank: 1

How they did it: Readers reported that the airline treated them well even when they were in those tiny cheap seats in the back of the plane. Maybe it’s that simple — be nice to everyone.

Car Rental: Enterprise

Last year’s rank: 2

How they did it: This one was an upset. Hertz has sat at the top of the rankings for several years, but this year it was Enterprise’s turn. I’ve been receiving far fewer complaints from Enterprise customers, so maybe that’s the reason for its higher ranking.

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Last year’s rank: 1

How they did it: Royal Caribbean has some of the most loyal customers and they came out in droves to vote. Why? Great ships, reasonable fares and fewer junk fees than the competition.

Ground Transportation: Uber

Last year’s rank: 1

How they did it: Despite all the controversy, Uber won by doing one thing well: delivering rides to people through an easy-to-use smartphone app. It has a vast network of drivers who get the job done.

Hotel: Marriott

Last year’s rank: 1

How they did it: In an industry where every room looks the same, Marriott makes its hotels stand out with excellent service. It’s not always perfect, but readers appreciate the consistency.

Luggage: Samsonite

Last year’s rank: N/A

How they did it: Samsonite builds reliable luggage with a terrific warranty.

Online Travel Agency: TripAdvisor

Last year’s rank: 1

How they did it: Once again, TripAdvisor shows that crowdsourcing reviews build customer loyalty. That’s reflected yet again in this year’s Readers’ Choice Awards.

Travel Insurance: Allianz Global Assistance

Last year’s rank: 1

How they did it: Allianz offers policies with generous coverage at fair prices. One of its secret weapons is speed — it handles claims lightning fast. Readers rewarded Allianz for that this year.

Theme Park: Epcot (Disney World)

Last year’s rank: 1

How they did it: Epcot is the Orlando Disney park for adults, and since most of our readers are adults, it’s no surprise that they liked this theme park. What is a little surprising is Disney’s dominance. It also held the number two spot (Disney World) and third place (Disneyland).

Vacation Rental:

Last year’s rank: 1

How they did it: Airbnb has extensive inventory and a super-easy booking interface. Most customer service complaints are taken care of quickly and to the guest’s satisfaction. Interestingly, VRBO and HomeAway came in second and third. Had they combined, they would have been first — and that would have been another upset.

What the best customer service in travel list means for you

You can find a full list of winners on my Elliott Advocacy Readers’ Choice Awards consumer advocacy website.

This year’s Reader’s Choice Awards really underscore the fact that it takes years to build a customer service reputation, and that’s especially true in travel. The readers who voted told me they would go out of the way to do business with companies like Allianz, Disney, Marriott and Samsonite. As you make your travel vacation plans for 2019, this survey is a useful shortlist of the best customer service in travel.

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