Does customer service - good or bad - really matter? Customer surveys from Ryanair and Southwest Airline passengers were examined to determine their perceptions regarding customer service for the period of 2012-2013. Southwest Airlines (n=149) was rated significantly higher than Ryanair (n=165) in overall rating (p=.0228), seat comfort (p<.0001), cabin/staff service (p<.0001), and value (p=.0004). Additionally, passengers would recommend Southwest Airlines at a higher rate than Ryanair (p=.0006). Open-ended comments emphasized that customer service and policies had a large impact on the ratings. Specifically, 53% of Ryanair customers complained about inefficient or unwelcome processes and discourteous or unfriendly service, compared to 29% for Southwest Airlines. Ryanair customers complained about check-in procedures, open seating policy, and fees ranging from over-sized carry-on bags to fees for printing out boarding passes. The largest area of complaint for Southwest customers concerned how customers were treated for flight delays.


We would like to acknowledge the support of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for providing funding for travel and software in support of this research.