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We’re traveling in the modern world, and having the right app can make a huge difference. Yes, I still travel with guidebooks and maps (thank you, Lonely Planet!!), but I use my phone to navigate and do research A LOT. Plus, it’s more environmentally-friendly and convenient to have my boarding passes and hotel reservations on my device. That’s why I was excited to see the release for the J.D. Power’s lists of the best travel apps and travel websites for 2020. 

To manage airline, hotel, and rental car bookings and boarding passes, the best travel apps and travel websites can save you time and money. This article discusses travel apps that are easy to navigate, load quickly and offer a range of services and/or activities. 

Both the J.D. Power 2019 U.S. Travel Website Satisfaction Study and J.D. Power 2019 U.S. Travel App Satisfaction Study measured customer satisfaction across key variables to come up with a list of the best travel apps and websites. This is of great interest to me because, when you travel with anxiety, simplicity matters even more. 

Travel Apps and Websites Aren’t Great

The first thing that we need to just openly admit — in general, travel apps and travel websites are pretty terrible. If you feel that way, you’re in good company. J.D. Power and associates found that, when compared with banking, credit card and insurance-related apps and sites, the ones designed for travel scored much lower

Here’s what they discovered:

  • Travel apps rank lower than financial apps in customer satisfaction: When it comes to customer satisfaction, airline, online travel agency (OTA), hotel and rental car apps all trail highest-scoring credit card apps significantly. Airline apps fared the worst with users giving them just 854 out of 1,000 possible points. That’s nearly 20 points less than the average score of 872 earned for overall credit card customer satisfaction!
     
  • Travel websites are even worse: Overall satisfaction with hotel, airline, rental car and OTA websites is also terrible. For example, the average overall satisfaction score for rental car websites is 827, the lowest of all travel industry categories. This compares with a score of 863 for credit card websites.
     
  • Speed and simplicity matter: People want to book their travel quickly, so it’s no surprise that customer satisfaction with travel websites goes up when the process of making a reservation is quicker than expected. Unfortunately, fewer than 20% of customers are impressed in this area because most sites require multi-step processes.
     
  • Notifications are a big deal: Helpful notifications can boost a travel app score by at least 92 points to overall satisfaction. Unfortunately, many airlines fail to get this right. Let’s not talk about the time that United rebooked me to Hong Kong instead of Osaka and then sent me an email instead of an app notification. That was a mess.
     
  • Digital leaders deliver consistent web and app experiences: Your experience on a travel website may not be the same as your experience on their app. We certainly can attest to this. While some top-performing airline, hotel and rental car companies have found a way to deliver cross-platform digital satisfaction, most of the time it’s inconsistent. 

Travel App Rankings 

It’s so frustrating when you need to verify information about an upcoming trip, but you can’t figure out how to find it on the app! It’s mind-blowing to me that more isn’t done to make travel apps more user-friendly. There have been many times when I’ve wanted to throw my phone out the window (I’m looking at you All Nippon Airways — great flight experience, terrible app!). 

Another thing to consider is that some travel apps actually have exclusive deals that the travel websites don’t. That can be a perk (if you know about it!), but then on Black Friday, it was hard to find deal information in the apps. The websites worked better. It’s so confusing! 

Child Airport Southwest Airlines Phoenix

Now that we know what J.D. Power and Associates were measuring when coming up with the best travel apps and travel websites for 2020, let’s take a look at the actual travel app rankings. We’ve got to say that we pretty much agree with this list!

Best Airlines Apps
  1. JetBlue has the highest overall satisfaction among airline apps with a score of 872
  2. FlyDelta (865) ranks second
  3. Southwest (864) ranks third
Best Hotel Apps
  1. IHG has the highest overall customer satisfaction among hotel apps with a score of 870
  2. Hilton Honors (866) ranks second
  3. World of Hyatt (865) ranks third

Best OTA (Online Travel Agency) Apps

  1. Orbitz has the highest overall customer satisfaction among OTA apps with a score of 870
  2. Travelocity (867) ranks second
  3. Expedia (856) ranks third

Best Rental Car Apps

  1. Avis has the highest overall customer satisfaction of rental car apps with a score of 873
  2. National (863) ranks second
  3. Enterprise Car Rental (859) ranks third

It’s interesting to look at these rankings and reflect on my experiences. I’d say that both JetBlue and Delta’s apps have been great so I’m not surprised they were named among the best travel apps and travel websites for 2020. Unbelievably, I’ve never flown on Southwest! I’m not surprised that Orbitz, Travelocity, and Expedia have ranked so high, because I’ve always had good experiences. Considering the fact that both IHG and World of Hyatt are among the best hotel rewards programs, maybe I need to stay with them more! 

Travel Website Rankings

Here’s a confession — even though I’d consider myself a fairly tech-savvy person, when it comes to booking travel, I tend to stick with travel websites. Then, once I’ve secured my reservation, I manage it through the app. I’ve got a feeling I’m not the only one. 

The thing about the best travel websites is that the navigation is easy. What I really love is when promotions or updates are right there on the landing page. I don’t want to have to dig through your site to score a deal or find out if a storm is impacting my travel plans. Just put it right there on the main page for your customers to see! 

Best Airline Websites
  1. Southwest Airlines ranks highest in overall customer satisfaction among airline websites with a score of 849
  2. Alaska Airlines (831) ranks second
  3. JetBlue Airways (829) ranks third
Best Hotel Websites
  1. Choice Hotels ranks highest in overall customer satisfaction among hotel websites with a score of 841
  2. Best Western Hotels & Resorts (840) and…
  3. Hyatt Hotels (840) rank second in a tie!
Best OTA Websites 
  • Booking.com ranks highest in overall customer satisfaction among OTA websites with a score of 847
  • Priceline (846) and…
  • Travelocity (846) rank second in a tie!
Best Rental Car Websites
  1. National ranks highest in overall customer satisfaction among rental car websites with a score of 841 
  2. Enterprise (836) ranks second
  3. Budget (827) ranks third

Well, we see some consistency here. Some brands are performing well in both the travel apps and travel website categories. High five to JetBlue, Southwest, Hyatt, Travelocity, National and Enterprise. It’s clear that customer satisfaction is a high priority here. 

Also, I’ll readily admit that I rarely book rental cars through a direct website. Instead, I typically go through an OTA or reserve as a package when I’m booking a flight or hotel stay. It just feels like too much to manage when I’ve got to go through three separate websites or apps for my flight, hotel and rental car information! 

Our Experience with Travel Apps and Websites

I’ll say that one of the most frustrating things to me is when something is really easy on a travel website, but complicated on the travel app. That has happened to me, even with big sites like Kayak.com. A lot of money is put into the travel and tourism industry, which is why these companies should be striving to offer the best travel apps and travel websites for 2020.

Our big issue has been theme park apps. Some parks, like Lagoon, don’t even have one. Big names like Disney, have apps that crash all the time. Let’s not talk about how difficult it is to get to your pictures if you bought a photo pass at Universal Studios! 

That being said, we hope that airlines, hotels and car rental agencies (and theme parks!) will see reports like these and do something to improve customer satisfaction. After all, if banking institutions can manage it, the biggest airlines should be able to as well. Jetblue and Southwest, as great as they are, shouldn’t be leading the way when United Airlines isn’t even in the top three. 

Travelers put a lot of money into the industry every year. They deserve to have a good experience while they spend their hard-earned money on a vacation!