Glassdoor Updates, Reviews

Travelers Take Note: Unsatisfied Employees Could Impact Your Vacation; Travel Sector Employment Grade

TripAdvisor reports more people are planning leisure trips this year than last. To increase the odds of your travel plans going smoothly, we thought it would be helpful to look at what employees behind some of the largest travel companies think about their jobs as it may come through in how they treat you.

In Glassdoor’s 2011 Travel Industry Report Card¹, we have combed through ratings and reviews shared by employees over the past two years to shed some light on what it’s like to work at more than 40 different travel companies², in hopes to help to narrow the best airlines, hotels, car & truck rental companies, online travel agencies, review sites and Global Distribution Services (GDS), as well as cruise lines. Where appropriate, we’ve called out movement since our 2010 report.

Travel Industry Highlights:

  • Top rated companies: Southwest Airlines (4.2), Virgin America (4.2) Four Seasons Hotels (3.6), Orbitz Worldwide (3.6), Kimpton Hotels (3.5) and Continental Airlines² (3.5). (Company ratings are based on a 5-point scale³.)
  • Top rated CEOs: Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly stands out from the pack with a near perfect approval rating of 99%; Marriott CEO Bill Marriott Jr. and Hotwire² CEO Clem Bason follow closely, each earning an 89% approval from their respective employees.
  • Companies to see the biggest increases in ratings include: American Eagle held a 2.9 in our 2010 report and climbed .5. United Airlines’ held a 2.1 in our 2010 report and climbed up to 2.6 this year.
  • Companies to see the biggest decline in ratings include: Hotwire received a 4.3 as of 2010 but in 2011 receives a 3.4 rating. Southwest Airlines, Avis Budget and Hyatt dropped slightly (.4).
  • CEOs to see the biggest changes in approval ratings include: Hilton Hotels CEO Christopher Nassetta saw his approval rating climb 30 percentage points to 62% approval.  Sabre’s² Sam Gilliland saw his approval rated decline 16 points to 67% approval.

Outlined below is a breakdown of employee satisfaction and ratings for major companies in the travel industry from an employee perspective where you can find what’s working well (pros) and what needs improvement (cons).


Southwest Airlines and Virgin America are the highest rated airlines – both receive a 4.2 company rating according to employees. They are followed by Continental Airlines (3.5), Air Canada (3.4) and American Eagle (3.4). The highest rated CEOs in the airlines industry are: Air Canada’s Calin Rovinescu (100% approval), Southwest’s Gary Kelly (99% approval), Virgin America’s David Cush (80% approval) and United Airlines’ Jeffery Smisek (80% approval).

United Airlines has made a big comeback with Smisek at its helm – Smisek’s approval rating is 80%, 67 points higher than his predecessor Glenn Tilton, who had just 13% approval in our 2010 report. Both American Airlines’ and Southwest Airlines’ CEOs saw a four point boost in their approval ratings since Glassdoor’s report last year.


The top rated hotels according to employees are Four Seasons Hotels (3.6), Kimpton Hotels (3.5) and the Ritz-Carlton (3.5). Four Seasons edged up from a 3.4, marking the most significant increase while Hyatt saw the biggest drop in the past year – from a rating of 3.3 in 2010 to 2.9 currently.

The hotel industry’s top bosses include: Omni Hotel’s Jim Caldwell (100% approval), Marriott’s Bill Marriott Jr. (89% approval), Kimpton’s Michael Depatie (86% approval).  Choice Hotels CEO Stephen Joyce is far from “choice” with employees with just a 20% approval rating.

Car & Truck Rentals:

In a neck-in-neck comparison, Hertz has the edge with employees receiving a 2.9 company rating. However it’s Dollar Thrifty Automotive’s Scott Thompson who currently leads in CEO approval ratings with a 67% approval rating from employees.

While Avis Budget fell slightly (.4) to a 2.7 rating, CEO Ron Nelson saw a notable improvement in his approval rating – climbing eight points to a 50% approval.

Online Travel Agencies, Review Sites and GDSs:

Among the online travel agencies, review sites and Global Distribution System (GDS) companies (a GDS is a company which provides automated services to travel vendors such as hotels, airlines and car rental companies), Orbitz stands tall with a 3.6 company rating, followed by Hotwire (3.4),  Travelocity (3.3), TripAdvisor (3.3), and Expedia (3.0). ² ⁴

Among the top bosses, however, Hotwire’s CEO Clem Bason rates highest with employees, earning an 89% approval rating with his rank and file. Orbitz CEO Barney Harford saw the most improvement in approval ratings – Harford’s rating went up seven points to a 76% approval.⁴


In the cruise industry, the Carnival Corporation comes out on top with a 3.1 company rating. Royal Caribbean Cruises CEO Richard Fain, however, is the top rated among this group – he receives an 82% approval rating.

Do you think employee opinions about these travel companies could impact your experience? Do you have any recent experiences to share?

Are you already employed in the travel sector? Don’t see your employer on this list and want to find out how they stack up? Submit a review for your company, and we’ll have more details to share in future reports as our community builds.


¹ The 2011 report takes into account companies with at least 10 approved company reviews shared between May 2009 and May 2011; The 2010 report takes into account companies with at least 10 approved company reviews shared between June 2008 and June 2010. *Highlights CEOs with less than 10 reviews.

² United Continental Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: UAL), the new holding company for United Airlines and Continental Airlines. Sabre Holdings supports four companies: Travelocity, Sabre Travel Network, Sabre Airline Solutions, and Sabre Hospitality Solutions. Note Hugh Jones, CEO of Travelocity, transitioned to sister company Sabre Airline Solutions in late April 2011. Expedia, Inc. is the parent company to a global portfolio of leading consumer brands, including Hotwire.

³ Ratings Scale: 5.0 – 4.01 = Employees are “Very Satisfied”,  4.0 – 3.51 = Employees are “Satisfied”, 3.5 – 2.51 = Employees say it’s “OK”, 1.51 – 2.5 = Employees are “Dissatisfied, 0.0 – 1.5 Employees are “Very Dissatisfied.”

⁴ TripAdvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer is currently a member of Glassdoor’s Board.