Study: Should Hawaii Travelers Adjust Expectations Amid Industry-Wide Dissatisfaction

Hawaii Travelers: Adjust Expectations Amid Industry-Wide Dissatisfaction, Airline Complaints +250%

Another consumer travel satisfaction survey just released indicates that we aren’t the happiest of travel campers at the moment. The long-time American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) travel study said that “Many folks ventured out to travel for the first time since the pandemic hit only to be met with lackluster service and dashed hopes.”

What about you? When you returned to Hawaii, was it just like you remembered it to be before the pandemic?

According to ACSI, “satisfaction with airlines is flying in the wrong direction, hotels aren’t hosting happy guests, and car rentals can’t get back on track. Anyone who anticipated their travel experience would feel like the ‘normal’ pre-pandemic days are likely coming away sorely disappointed in multile ways. While the desire to travel may be up, it might well be time to adjust your expectations.” Somehow this is sounding familiar in relation to some of your comments.

This study provides customer satisfaction data across four travel industries – airlines, hotels, car rentals, and online travel agencies – based on surveys conducted from April 2021 to March 2022.

Some Hawaii related airline takeaways.

Interesting results from the study that relate to Hawaii include American and United Airlines were both up significantly in customer satisfaction rankings. That came together with a decline in satisfaction with Delta and Southwest Airlines, which brought all four carriers into a direct tie. That’s interesting following studies from Wall Street Journal and Wallet Hub. ACSI said that satisfaction with “Alaska decreases 3%. Note that Hawaiian Airlines was not part of this study.

Hawaii airfares, have, as you’ve generally reported being among the less expensive parts of an island vacation. But not for long. IATA said this week that “Ultimately, this (high fuel costs) will find its way into increased fares.” Fuel is the single largest cost for airlines.

U.S. DOT report is out today.

If you aren’t that happy, you are not alone. Just today, the U.S. DOT announced it had received 3,733 complaints about airline service from consumers in February, up 249.9% from the 1,067 complaints reported in pre-pandemic February 2019. That as airlines flew 88% of their same-period 2019 traffic.

Hawaii takeaways from the DOT report include Hawaiian Air having the best on-time arrival rate, again at 87%. Delta and Alaska followed with 83%. Those three scored well with the fewest cancelations, with HA at 0.2%, AS at 1.5% and DL at 2.4%

Hotels plagued with dissatisfaction.

You’ve been outspoken about Hawaii hotels and pricing that is through the roof. Regular Mignon said, “how can you afford to stay in a hotel in Hawaii? The usual $350-375 partial ocean view at the Big Island’s Waikoloa Beach Marriott is over $1,000 per night!”

According to ACSI, “the hotel industry faces the ire of unsatisfied customers yet again. Guest satisfaction overall falls 2.7% to a score of 71, with over half of the major hoteliers posting ACSI declines of 4% or greater.”

Of the major hotel chains, ACSI said that Marriott, which is the very chain that Mignon complained about, is the best in the industry. They improved by 3% to a score of 78. Hilton, which was ahead of the pack last year, came in second following a 4% drop to 76. The Best Western chain stayed at 75, while IHG plunged 5% to 74. Choice and Hyatt both scored 73, while Wyndham remained at 69.

Car rental industry satisfaction down slightly to score of 75.

Why aren’t we surprised here? You’ve also been outspoken about car rental prices. We were just looking at prices even in the off-season, and the new low price seems to be close to $100/day.

Among the big 3 brands, Alamo ranked at the top by moving up 4% to 79. Enterprise, Hertz and National all tied for second position with 76 points. Dollar was next, at 75; followed by Avis at 74, and Budget at 72. All of these were down compared with last year. Lowest ranked in the study was Thrifty, at 70.

The ACSI study was based on interviews with 6,285 customers. “Respondents were chosen at random and contacted via email between April 5, 2021, and March 25, 2022.” ACSI has been publishing economic indicators for the past 25 years across 47 industries, of which travel is just one.

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Have you had to adjust your Hawaii travel expectations?

50 thoughts on “Hawaii Travelers: Adjust Expectations Amid Industry-Wide Dissatisfaction, Airline Complaints +250%”

    1. Perhaps because Hawaiian Air only serves Hawaii and it’s not a fair comparison to the varying degrees of Hawaii service from the Mainland Airlines?…simply put they are not in the same league when it comes to Hawaii service.

        1. By only serving Hawaii I meant every flight they operate serves Hawaii….either to or from.
          I think it’s safe to say the difference besides the superior “Hawaiian Style” service is the fact that they don’t have an extensive mainland route system that can interrupt their schedule. It’s why Hawaiian is the most reliable choice to Hawaii and of course throughout Hawaii.

  1. Most boards are filled with people who have never been to Hawaii and seem willing to spend every penny of the money they saved while staying home during the pandemic. Once they return to visiting places that they had frequented in the past things should slowly return to whatever normal is.

    Hotels seem to be having a grand time reducing services like housekeeping but jacking up prices. Certainly not passing any savings they are benefiting from on to the consumer. This is happening all over, not just in Hawaii. I know they have a hard time finding enough employees but they are saving not only the wages but also the cost of the actual accouterments that came with a room, like towels.

  2. We expected some glitches as things opened up and travel resumed, and did our best to be easy-going and understanding. The number one complaint we have though, is employees who don’t want to work and their resentment at having to do so shows plainly. There’s definitely a “take a hike” mentality that is permeating the travel industry right now, and it isn’t just the airlines. (We were actually treated quite nicely by Alaska employees). So we are choosing to stay home and take day trips until the hotel and travel industry in general wise up and hire people who enjoy their jobs. Mahalo for the opportunity to comment.

  3. We went to Hawaii a few months back. Had the best of times. However, we had very low expectations. We are well aware of the staff shortages and knew we would not always get exactly what we wanted, not at the price we were use too.
    We had to make reservations for everything but knew that going in.

  4. I flew with Alaska in Feb, I went to Maui from Pdx ! It was the worst trip I have ever had! The flight attendants were rude and unhappy! I am considering never flying with then again! Even the people at the check in counters made it very difficult and even yelled at me and called me a liar!

    1. We fly Alaska all the time to Hawaii. We get a Companion Pass every year. We’ve never had a bad experience. We even get upgraded to Business Class on occasion, without even asking. Not negating your experience, though. Try them again!

  5. We are at the tail end of a pandemic. I don’t know how people could have expected the world to shut down and then open again without for seeing all of the effects on businesses. People complain however it is mostly due to the shortage of people who want to work, so who should you really be mad at? No one. We should all be more understanding. Travel opened up again and after two years tourists decided they all wanted to travel, everywhere. We just returned from Maui and it was very busy. We are aware that we are on vacation and things may take longer than they used to. Overall I see people who ARE working doing their best to serve. It’s a new reality. Hopefully we can look forward to better days ahead.

  6. Just got back from Oahu yesterday. Had no problems with car rentals do agree accommodations are a real problem. The recent law Honolulu passed that will make vacation rentals a thing of the past, plus grossly overpriced hotels, feels very anti-tourist. Folks on the street are generally welcoming but the politicians including Honolulu’s mayor are pushing tourists out. Plus changes starting in May like Diamond Head requiring reservations to enter. It’s hard when places get loved to death but Hawaii as a whole may be shooting itself in the foot in the long run. I have to admit, although I greatly enjoy Oahu, I’m leaning strongly towards spending my future vacation dollars elsewhere, like Aruba or the Virgin Islands. Just saying.

    1. Aloha-
      I work in vacation rentals on Oahu & it will definitely NOT be a thing of the past. Airbnb units are just being held more responsible now for their bad guests that they can & can’t always control. Just like so many states now, residents are sick of the disrespectful, entitled guests with too high of expectations visiting (starting way before the pandemic). Something is finally being done state by state & it’s Hawaii’s turn. With that, those that work in the service industry here are seriously over it & mentally exhausted from dealing with that same disrespectful & entitled attitude from visitors. Can you blame them? Travel has changed for the worst unfortunately. More & more travelors are traveling to trample & conquer. Sad!

  7. Last year (2021), we went to the Big Island in April and Kauai in August. We didn’t really have to adjust our expectations, we knew what COVID was doing to the entire world, and we were ready. A lot was due to reading your column every day. Getting the COVID test was not a problem, we knew ahead of time about the car rental issues. We made most of our dinner reservations a month ahead of time. Sometimes it was a little slow, but we knew that. Being able to eat outdoors was wonderful. Our timeshare didn’t have some of the amenities as usual (e.g., throw pillows on the sofa) but we went to Walmart and bought some and brought them home.
    It was certainly a lot better than staying home and continuing lockdown !

  8. I have going to Hawaii for over 20 years. Many things have changed over that time. The post covid era is more expensive as is everything, everywhere. We planned ahead with restaurant reservations so not a problem. Overall, my biggest disappointment was not feeling welcome as a timeshare/hotel guest. No more dose of Aloha spirit from the staff. While being used to limited timeshare housekeeping services, no services was a bit difficult to navigate. It was suggested to me at one resort that I wash our own pool towels. The towel exchange was closed. I told them I did not travel to Hawaii to spend my time washing towels for a group of 4 ladies. We expected limited services and longer response times; just not the negative staff attitudes!

  9. I worked in Hawaii tourism for some 38 years. I just retired. And this story tells nothing new. Expectations. Perceptions. Nothing has changed.

  10. We are in Kauai now and we were delayed 90 min on our AA flight out of Phx. Our car rental experience was less than stellar, took forever and did not get the car we ordered and they tried to charge us 400.00 dollars more than our contract. Luckily we have a timeshare so that was not jacked up. Yay! Prices for everything have gone thru the roof. Do not think anything will be back to what it was pre pandemic because you will be sorely disappointed but hey, it’s Kauai and we love it!

  11. Lot of misinformation about short term rentals in some posts here. Hawaii is in fact clamping down on the neighborhood rentals that have caused so much destruction to formally peaceful residential areas. However, there are still vacation rentals available in certain areas, Kapolei, Turtle Bay and more.
    Fortunately they are being reeled in where they are not appropriate. There has to be a balance for tourists to enjoy Hawaii while the people that live here should have a neighborhood they can feel like it’s a home and not overrun with commercial activity.

  12. If I have any complaints about the airlines it’s the fact that what you buy six months out and what you actually get 30 days out are two different things. On another front the price of accommodations has gone absolutely nuts. And the price of car rentals has also gone up in most cases. I get the distinct feeling that certain entities are taking advantage of the poor situation. I think in about 6 months or so it’s going to backfire on them.
    Aloha Guys


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