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New Survey Finds Continental Airlines as Top Choice of Frequent Flyers

Aired May 9, 2000 - 2:48 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Frequent fliers are rating the airlines. They're also telling us what matters most to travelers.

Here is CNN's Carl Rochelle.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARL ROCHELLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Continental Airlines was the top choice of frequent flyers for both long- and short-haul flights, according to a survey by J.D. Power Associates of more than 6,000 passengers who flew 25 or more times in the last year. The survey asked passengers to rate their last three flights on nine different airlines for seating, baggage handling, flight availability, but one issue stood out.

MIKE TAYLOR, J.D. POWER AND ASSOCIATES: On-time performance is the key driver. People don't take an airline to not experience the food necessarily, or to have an in-flight movie, they take the plane to get somewhere on time.

ROCHELLE: TWA, last year's leader in the short-haul category, finished second in both categories this year. Southwest was third. America West, American, Delta. Northwest, US Airways, and United fell below the national average in short-haul flights. United matched the national standard in long-haul flights.

But passengers still have mixed views on airline performance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually, I've been pretty happy and I fly quite a bit. So I'm pretty pleased in the last year. I think there's been a lot of improvement in the service.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's getting more crowded and, I don't know, I'm finding that it's just harder to travel in general.

ROCHELLE: The survey also reflected continued dissatisfaction. More than half of those who responded reported some type of problem with their flight. Key among them: on-time performance, seating issues, and carry-on luggage space.

Critics say the survey doesn't show a true picture of passenger concerns. DAVID STEMPLER, AIR TRAVELER ASSOCIATION: We are all looking for kinder, gentler airlines these days. But these kind of factors don't change the way that people select airlines for their trips. What we found is that it's price, schedule and frequent flier relationships that make the determination.

ROCHELLE (on camera): Southwest and Continental fared well in a separate survey a month ago that measured on-time performance, baggage handling, and other passenger complaints. But that survey, using information the airlines provided to the Department of Transportation, also found that passenger complaints were up 130 percent last year.

Carl Rochelle, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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