Tails of Delta and Southwest planes with views of the mountains
Credit: Arreale Davis/Stockimo/Alamy

Sometimes traveling isn’t just about the best and cheapest airfare. It’s also about the best experience.

According to the 2018 Temkin Experience Ratings, an annual U.S. customer experience survey of 10,000 consumers, Southwest Airlines reigns supreme when it comes to giving travelers the most pleasant customer experience.

Nine airlines were included in this year's ratings. At the top, Southwest scored 76%, putting it at the top of all airlines included in the survey, and 51st of all companies from all industries.

Other industries in the survey were auto dealers, fast food, health plans, hotels, banks, wireless carriers and others.

Above 80% is considered excellent and below 60% is considered poor, according to the Temkin rating system. The survey rates three components of customer experience: success, effort an emotion. Other factors include forgiveness, trust, customer service rating and online rating.

Southwest has rated at the top of all airlines in the Temkin survey every year since 2011, with the exception of 2015, when JetBlue rose to the top, according to TravelPulse.

After Southwest, the airline that came in next was Alaska Airlines (74%), followed by JetBlue (70%) and Virgin America (70%, and now part of Alaska). In ninth place, Spirit Airlines scored 44%.

Delta, United, and American Airlines all ranked above 60% but below 70%. Alaska Airlines gained the most points (6 points) from last year.

“Southwest Airlines continues to set the pace for customer experience in the airline industry, but Alaska Airlines is closing the gap,” Bruce Temkin, managing partner of Temkin Group, told TravelPulse.