Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

First the good news.

Should you run an airline, that is.

Americans are, apparently, happier with airlines than they've ever been.

Please, I really don't make these things up, even if I find them amusing.

Specifically, passengers are happier that airlines have newer planes, better reservations systems and more efficient boarding, deplaning and baggage systems.

They even believe that prices are rather fair. 

This all comes from the new J.D. Power airline customer satosfaction study that landed today.

You'll be as surprised as you are when you hear a politician lie when I tell you that Southwest Airlines and Alaska scored the best in this study.

JetBlue and Delta did very well, too.

I, however, am fascinated by the tail end of the numbers. 

There, budget carrier Frontier Airlines brings up the rear.

However, United Airlines finds itself next to bottom, in a category J.D. Power refers to as "The Rest."

What's even more startling is that United is ranked below Allegiant Air.

You might remember Allegiant. It was the subject of a scathing piece on 60 Minutes that suggested that too many of Allegiant's planes are rickety old bangers that break down far too often.

Yet here are passengers insisting that they're more satisfied with Allegiant than they are with United.

How can this be?

Both airlines have been subjected to bad publicity. Could it be, though, that United's serial snafus have brought it down?

First, there was dragging Dr. David Dao, a paying passenger with a bloodied face, down the aisle of a plane. 

Then, there was the incident in which a dog was shoved into an overhead bin and died.

And who can forget the airline attempting to wreck its employees' bonus scheme by turning it into a game show lottery, in which hardly anyone could win?

I asked United whether it thought that the J.D. Power result reflected not a commercial reality -- the airline isn't all that different from, say, American Airlines -- but a PR canyon.

I will update, should I hear.

The airline did recently hire former White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest to be its new vice president and chief communications officer.

Perhaps that shows how much the airline believes its image needs rectifying.

The problem with perception is that it can often stay ahead of reality for some time. 

What can United do to make things better?

The airline has already taken several steps, promising not to overbook planes and force passengers off and rededicating itself to customer service. Or, at least, trying to.

Then again, there will still be times when some of its customers -- especially those near the back of the plane -- fancy that United doesn't care.

I imagine not everyone is fond of United giving its highest-paying passengers their own terminal.

Published on: May 30, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.