Alaska Airlines soars to No. 1 with a speedy reservation process and online refunds in the latest PowerRankings™ of airlines by Forrester Research, Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR). Forrester’s PowerRankings combines survey data from online consumers and unbiased shopping tests to provide objective rankings of the leading US eCommerce sites. The companies that rank below Alaska Airlines are Continental Airlines, Northwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, America West Airlines, and US Airways.

While Alaska Airlines offers limited destinations, its reservation process is the quickest of tested sites for both first-time and repeat customers. Travelers can hold a reservation without entering a credit card number, and the site has a simple online refund process. On the negative side, not all email inquiries are answered, and terminal maps are hard to find.

Previous winner Continental drops to the No. 2 spot. It offers automatic login for repeat customers, integrated car and hotel booking, and the ability to check flight status by city name. But email support is dismal — the only nonautomatic email response received during testing took two weeks to arrive and said to call for service.

Northwest finishes third with the quickest email responses of tested sites, automatic login for repeat customers, and features like airport maps. Shoppers can redeem miles for purchases online and check flight status by city name. But navigation changes between the main informational site and the reservation section, and the customer service phone number is hard to find.

Delta climbs from last to fourth place with the help of quick refunds and helpful service. But the site doesn’t offer reservation holds, and the first-time checkout process makes buyers search for flights before and after registration.

“Alaska Airlines leaped to No. 1 by improving two critical areas: customer service and consumer satisfaction,” said Tom Rhinelander, research director at Forrester. “And while consumers once again ranked Southwest highest, its bare-bones site and lack of email support drop it to sixth place overall. This is no surprise to Southwest, which has recently announced it will enhance the site.”

For the latest PowerRankings, Forrester surveyed 20,000 consumers from the NPD Group’s online panel. These consumers identified the eCommerce sites that they purchased from most recently and rated their experiences. A team of Forrester shoppers then evaluated the shopping experience on sites that have a statistically valid number of consumer respondents by performing a series of rigorous tests. The consumer data and Forrester shopper scores were then synthesized and weighted, with consumer views accounting for two-thirds of the overall PowerRankings. A complete set of PowerRankings results — both consumer and Forrester shopper data — is made available to all ranked companies free of charge.

Additional information about each of the categories, including a complete set of rankings and scores, can be found can be found at the PowerRankings Web site —