Joseph Kaczmarek  /  AP
A Southwest Airlines aircraft taxies at Philadelphia International Airport. The airline was top-rated in a new Consumer Reports survey.
msnbc.com news services
updated 5/10/2011 7:55:31 PM ET 2011-05-10T23:55:31

Even though the dismal state of air travel has turned many passengers into deal-seekers instead of brand loyalists, fliers do have their favorite carriers. Southwest and JetBlue Airlines are the most beloved, according to a survey released today by Consumer Reports.

The budget airlines received top marks in nearly all of the six categories measured, including cabin cleanliness, baggage handling and cabin-crew service. The magazine surveyed nearly 15,000 readers who had taken round-trip flights in the past 12 months. Southwest and JetBlue are among 10 airlines included in the survey.

US Airways and United were lowest-rated, both scoring a little more than 60 points for overall satisfaction compared to Southwest's 87 points and JetBlue's 84 points. Respondents gave US Airways the worst score for cabin-crew service. The airline also had the poorest rating in 2007, the last time Consumer Reports conducted the survey.

JetBlue received the highest marks for its in-flight entertainment system. The carrier features seatback TV screens that play a wide range of live programming. Southwest, which recently began offering a movie-watching service for laptop users, received its worst score in the category.

Southwest customers gave the carrier the highest marks for its check-in experience, perhaps because the airline is the only major U.S. carrier that does not charge first- or second-bag fees.

The survey, however, was conducted before a hole appeared in the fuselage of a Southwest jet as it was traveling at altitude. Further investigations found cracks on several other jets from Southwest's fleet.

Story: Southwest grounds 79 jets after hole appears mid-flight

Overall, respondents complained that ever-increasing fees are driving them away from air travel, citing the added expenses as more of a burden than flight delays and poor service.

Things are unlikely to improve for consumers, who continue to face fewer choices in selecting a carrier. The 2007 Consumer Reports ratings covered 18 airlines, narrowed down this year to 10 in part as a result of mergers. United and Continental merged last year and plan to be fully integrated by 2013. AirTran, which was recently acquired by Southwest, will be rebranded in the first half of 2012.

© 2013 msnbc.com

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