Zagat rates the airlines and IBM (oddly enough) checks for rip-offs

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As you prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, here are two new surveys about the airline industry to give you food for thought.

Earlier this week, Zagat Survey released its list of top airlines, based on the experiences of nearly 10,000 frequent fliers.

The top economy-class airlines are:

1. JetBlue

2. Southwest

3. Continental

4. AirTran

5. Delta

See the full results at

Some of my favorite Zagat quotes: "The Rhett Butler of airlines: they just don't give a damn"; "Bathrooms smell like a lion house at the zoo on a hot day"; "Hot food in coach—so retro!"; "Would rather flap my arms than book this airline"; "Gets you where you're going…sometimes."

Oddly, IBM also has gotten in the business of doing travel surveys. According to its latest phone survey of about 1,000 people, about 78 percent of travelers think baggage fees are the biggest airline rip-off.

Other rip-offs?

Additional charges for redeeming frequent-flier miles: 76 percent

Food and non-alcohol drink fees: 52 percent

Fuel surcharges: 47 percent (a tie—another 47 percent think fuel surcharges are reasonable)

The study also asked people what were the travel mishaps they experienced in the past year:

About 20 percent said they had missed a connecting flight due to airline delays, while 8 percent said they had been bumped from a flight. About 16 percent say they had lost their luggage.

Researchers also found that 26 percent think the airline industry can learn from cruise lines in terms of offering better customer service, whereas some 10 percent think the airlines should model themselves after the banking industry (only when it comes to customer service—not when it comes to making stupid investments).

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