Top-Ranked Travel Brands Southwest, Kayak, Royal Caribbean and Enterprise Continue to Rule the Industry as Brands of the Year According to the 23rd Annual Harris Poll EquiTrend® Study

Despite challenging times for the travel industry, Americans give highest marks to brands that "connect" with customers and "over-deliver" in their respective categories, irrespective of amenities.

Apr 10, 2012, 08:30 ET from Harris Interactive

NEW YORK, April 10, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- As Americans look towards vacations to "get away," companies like Southwest, Alaska/Horizon Airlines, Enterprise Rent-A-Car,, and Royal Caribbean Cruises prove they are the preferred choice for "getting us there," according to the 2012 Harris Poll EquiTrend® (EQ) study.  The EQ is a major brand equity study released annually by Harris Interactive, a leading market research firm that specializes in corporate reputation and brand health research.


"Consumers are savvy, and before they buy, want to feel 'linked and connected' to the brands they're purchasing," according to Joan Sinopoli, Senior Vice President of the Brand and Communications Consulting group at Harris interactive.  "And, although services may be similar, preferred brands more than often exceed a customer's expectations, making them more than likely to recommend to others."

Airlines Rule the Air By "Thinking Small"

At the start of the economic downturn, airlines dropped to new equity lows by charging additional fees beyond checked baggage for things like blankets, pillows, meals, boarding privileges, ticket changes, and window seats reservations. The Harris Poll EquiTrend study shows that carriers that forge emotional connections with their consumers and over-deliver on expectations tend to come out on top, consistently.

"This is the first time in the 23 year history of the Harris Poll EquiTrend study that we have broken the airline category apart, separating the full service carriers from the value carriers," continues Sinopoli.  "We wanted to get a clearer picture of the category, a purer apples-to-apples comparison of carriers in each category, so to speak." 

Among the Value Airlines, Southwest Airlines soars above the rest of its competitors as this year's Harris Poll EquiTrend Brand of the Year.  Jet Blue ended up in second place.  Even as Southwest has evolved into a major national carrier, it maintains its original "sassy" brand character and continuously creates a unique atmosphere for its loyal flyers.  That "spirited" brand character, coupled with bucking the nickel-and-diming trend, has created a passionate and devoted following.

Alaska/Horizon Airways is the 2012 Full Service Airline Brand of the Year, according to this year's Harris Poll EquiTrend study.  Since 2008, this full-service carrier has seen year-over-year increases in brand equity and momentum.  Alaska/Horizon Airways has been aggressively expanding its footprint and updating its fleet and has supplanted last year's Airline Brand of the Year, Hawaiian Airlines.

Cruise Line Incidents Cause Equity Dip for Sector

After a turbulent year for the cruise industry, marked by several notable mishaps, Royal Caribbean Cruises has moved to the top of its category, earning the Cruise Line Brand of the Year ranking in the 2012 Harris Poll EquiTrend study.  Also earning above average scores in brand equity are Celebrity Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line, which round out the top three in the category.  Most notably, Celebrity Cruises posted a significantly better brand equity score this year, perhaps driven by an uptick in quality, but more so by a stronger intention to use the cruise line than compared to the previous year. is Online Travel Service Brand of the Year

Although more familiar with Travelocity and Expedia, Americans chose as this year's Online Travel Service Brand of the Year.  For those who know the site, its quality has garnered it a loyal following in the online travel space.  With just one click, searches other travel sites and databases to provide a buffet of options, and emerges as the category leader.

There's No Surprise with Top-Ranked Enterprise

As business travel fuels the car rental industry, modest extra perks offered both at the counter and through loyalty programs may be a reason why full-service providers like Enterprise, Hertz, and Avis are perennially within the top three highest ranked brands.

For more information on the 2012 Harris Poll EquiTrend® study, please visit

About Harris Poll EquiTrend®

Harris Poll EquiTrend® is a leading Brand Equity tracking study conducted by Harris Interactive that measures and compares brand health for more than 1,500 brands.  The study was conducted online from January 31 through February 20, 2012, and analyzes the responses of over 37,500 consumers on key measures of brand health - including how well the public knows a brand, how positively they think of the brand and their consideration to do business with or donate to a brand.  Each brand is rated 1,000 times among respondents who are familiar with the brand.  Harris Interactive has conducted its EquiTrend study regularly since 1989, and can offer yearly trended data from 2005.  The Equity Score, a key take-away from EquiTrend, has been validated against financial performance by Georgetown University.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The Harris Poll EquiTrend® study results disclosed in this release may not be used for advertising, marketing or promotional purposes without the prior written consent of Harris Interactive.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

For a complete listing of all the brands covered in the study, contact Dagney Cassella at 212-539-9600 or

About Harris Interactive
Harris Interactive is one of the world's leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight.  Known widely for the Harris Poll® and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods.  Serving clients in more than 215 countries and territories through our North American and European offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us - and our clients - stay ahead of what's next.  For more information, please visit

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SOURCE Harris Interactive