Westlake Village, California – Customer satisfaction with renting cars at airports has declined considerably for a second consecutive year, according to a study by J.D. Power and Associates, although Enterprise stayed at the top ranking for the fifth time.

The study, now in its 13th year, measures overall customer satisfaction with renting cars at airports by examining six factors: costs and fees, pickup process, rental car, return process, reservation process, and shuttle bus or van. Overall satisfaction declined from 750 points on a 1,000-point scale in 2007, to 734 points in 2008.

“The current economic climate is having negative effects on all aspects of the travel industry, from airlines to hotels to rental car companies, as staffing and operational cutbacks have resulted in diminishing levels of customer satisfaction,” said Jim Gaz, J.D. Power’s senior director of global hospitality, travel and entertainment. “Some leisure and business travellers are avoiding air travel altogether, which has ramifications for airport-based rental car companies in terms of a shrinking customer base and decreasing revenues. In times like these, it becomes particularly important to deliver superior customer service and retain current customers, since new ones may be scarce.”

Enterprise ranked highest in customer satisfaction for a fifth consecutive year, performing particularly well in all six factors. Second place went to Hertz, while Alamo took third place, improving considerably from 2007. While only one in 10 rental car customers surveyed reported having a significant problem with their rental, having a problem has a strong negative effect on overall satisfaction.

“Ensuring that rental car customers have a problem-free experience is critical to providing high levels of satisfaction,” Gaz said. “Other factors that have a particularly strong impact on satisfaction with the car rental process include adequately preparing vehicles so that they are clean and in good operating condition upon pickup, ensuring that customers receive the vehicle models that they reserve, rather than substituting a different model, and minimizing wait times for vehicle pickup and drop-off.”

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