J.D. Power: Travel apps have much room for improvement

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Travel app
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Many travel industry apps are falling short of user expectations, according to J.D. Power's inaugural U.S. Travel App Satisfaction Study.

"While some travel apps are delivering on their promise, others are missing the mark at critical moments of truth that can significantly influence traveler perception of brands and services," J.D. Power travel intelligence analyst Michael Taylor said in a prepared remark. "We see big swings in scores among travel apps when users evaluate searching and booking functions."

Hotel, OTA and rental car apps scored an average of 849 on J.D. Power's 1,000-point scale. Airline apps scored an average of 840. Those figures compare to average customer satisfaction scores of 874 and 867 for credit card and retail banking apps, respectively. 

The travel app ratings were based on more than 12,000 evaluations by users during December and January. Survey participants reviewed the apps for the clarity of information that they provided, their ease of navigation, their overall appearance, the loading speed of screens, and the range of services they offered. The study showed that the most important performance measure for users across all segments of the travel industry was the apps' day-of-travel performance. 

Among the travel sectors considered in the study, airline apps had the highest level of adoption, followed by hotel, OTA and rental car. On a whole, airline apps received worse reviews than the apps from the three other industry sectors, in part because they load the slowest during the day of travel, J.D. Power said. 

Among the six airline apps ranked in the study, JetBlue was the best, followed by Southwest. United brought up the rear. JetBlue's app especially excelled at the clarity of the information that is provided on its day-of-travel screens, such as the boarding pass screen, Taylor said. United unveiled a new app in early January. 

Among the eight hotel apps ranked in the study, Hyatt led the way, followed by InterContinental Hotels Group. The Starwood app had the lowest score.

Orbitz led the way among the five OTA apps ranked in the study. Priceline was second. CheapOair was last. 

For rental cars, National's app received the best reviews among the five apps ranked in the study. Enterprise was second. Budget had the worst score. 

Taylor explained that the ranked apps make up only a portion of the apps reviewed in the J.D Power study. Some apps -- he used the Kayak app as an example -- don't provide a full-service experience and require customers to complete a booking on the company's website. Only full-service apps made the rankings.

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