There’s A Newly Rated Best Airline In The USA

Airplane Landing

If you are a frequent air traveler or know one, you have probably heard some horror stories about air travel lately. The Airline Quality Rating Report (AQR) created by Wichita State University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is in its 29th year. The evaluations were made based on four main categories: “mishandled baggage, consumer complaints, on-time performance and involuntary denied boardings.”

The study found positive news for the airline industry. All US airlines are improving when it comes to how they treat baggage, handle overcrowded flights, and the number of complaints received. The only category that fared worse is the number of flights arriving late rose, which is being attributed to weather and computer system issues.

Below is the 2019 ranking of the nation’s largest nine airlines, according to the Airline Quality Rating, with the 2018 ranking in parentheses:

  1. Delta (2)
  2. JetBlue (3)
  3. Southwest (5)
  4. Alaska (1)
  5. Hawaiian (4)
  6. United (8)
  7. Spirit (12)
  8. American (9)
  9. Frontier (11)

The merger of Alaska and Virgin America was completed in April of 2018.  The results for Alaska reflect the performance of the merged airlines for the entire year.

On-time performance

Hawaiian Airlines had the best on-time performance (89.3 percent) for 2018, and Frontier had the worst (69.4 percent).

Four airlines improved their on-time arrival performance in 2018. Four of the nine airlines rated had an on-time arrival percentage of more than 80 percent. On-time performance for the industry in 2018 was 79.6 percent, compared to 80.2 percent in 2017.

Involuntary denied boardings

Delta was the industry leader in avoiding involuntary denied boarding incidents in 2018 with a rate of 0.00 per 10,000 passengers. Hawaiian, JetBlue and United followed closely each with rates of 0.01 involuntary denied boardings per 10,000 passengers. Frontier had the highest involuntary denied boarding rate with 0.63 per 10,000 passengers.

Eight airlines improved their denied boardings rate in 2018. JetBlue recorded the largest improvement and Frontier had the largest increase in the rate of denied boardings. Delta (0.00), Hawaiian (0.01), JetBlue and United are clearly the industry leaders in avoiding denied boarding incidents. Industry performance was better in 2018 (0.14 per 10,000 passengers) than it was in 2017 (0.34).

The industry performance is the lowest rate of involuntary denied boardings since the AQR started in 1991.

Baggage handling

Spirit had the best baggage handling rate (1.76 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers) of all airlines, and American had the worst baggage handling rate (3.83) mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers.

Three airlines had improved mishandled baggage rates in 2018. The industry rate decreased from 2.46 per 1,000 passengers in 2017 to 2.43 in 2018.

The industry performance is the lowest rate of mishandled baggage since the AQR started in 1991.

Consumer complaints

Southwest had the lowest consumer complaint rate (0.36 per 100,000 passengers) of all airlines. Frontier had the highest consumer complaint rate (4.02 per 100,000 passengers).

Customer complaints per 100,000 passengers decreased from 1.35 in 2017 to 1.04 in 2018. The majority of complaints (72 percent) to the Department of Transportation were for flight problems (36.9 percent), baggage (13.0 percent), customer service (12.1 percent), and reservations, ticketing and boarding (10.1 percent).

The volume of complaints received by the DOT was down by 23% in 2018 compared to 2017 volumes.


Interested in the full report? It is available here


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