Airline Industry Has 'Declined in Overall Performance Quality'

PHOTO: United Airlines was rated last in customer complaints by The Airline Quality Report.

A report released today ranking the industry as a whole and domestic carriers individually names the best and worst when it comes to some of the most important issues to air travelers: On-time arrivals, involuntary denied boardings, mishandled bags and customer complaints.

The Airline Quality Report said 2012 "showed an industry that declined in overall performance quality over the previous year," calling performance "slightly worse" than 2011. The rating is conducted annually by researchers at the W. Frank Barton School of Business at Wichita State University and the Department of Aviation Technology at Purdue University.

Domestic airlines, as a whole, declined in performance in two of the four areas measured: Customer complaints and involuntary denied boarding. There were a total of 11,445 complaints registered with the Department of Transportation regarding U.S. carriers, and nearly 62 percent of those were for flight problems, reservation, ticketing and boarding problems or customer service issues.

Despite the decrease in performance in two key areas, the report states that because the changes were minimal, it's a "positive sign" for the industry. "The maintenance of the AQR score at a near-record low level during difficult economic times speaks well of the industry," the report said.

Of all domestic airlines, United Airlines fared worst overall. This is the first year that data for United and Continental have been presented together. The two airlines merged in 2010. American Eagle had the largest improvement in AQR score of any airline rated for 2012.

Best and Worst Airlines in Each Category:

On-Time Performance:

Best: Hawaiian Air came out of top with an on-time performance rate of 93.4 percent.

Worst: American Airlines was the worst when it came to on-time performance at 76.9 percent.

Involuntary Denied Boarding:

Best: JetBlue. Just 0.01 per 10,000 passengers in 2012 were denied boarding. This was consistent with denied boarding in 2011.

Worst: SkyWest Airlines: 2.32 per 10,000 passengers in 2012, a dramatic increase compared to 2011, when the rate was 0.68.

Mishandled Bags:

Best: Virgin America had a mishandled baggage rate of 0.87 per 1,000 passengers.

Worst: American Eagle mishandled bags at a rate 7.32 per 1,000 passengers.

Customer Complaints:

Best: Southwest Airlines had a customer complaint rate of 0.25 per 100,000 passengers in 2012. The report noted "Southwest Airlines is consistently the airline with the lowest customer complaint rate in the industry."

Worst: United had an average of 4.24 per 100,000 passengers.

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