Virgin America leads annual airline rating report

Dino D'Amore
By Dino D'Amore April 8, 2014 19:20

Virgin America leads annual airline rating report

The Airline Quality Rating Report for 2013 has determined that overall the US airline industry had its best-ever performance in 2013, with Virgin America scoring top.

Of the 15 carriers rated for performance in both 2012 and 2013, eight airlines improved, six airlines declined and one is new to the rankings.

The Airline Quality Rating (AQR) is a joint research project funded as part of faculty research activities at Wichita State University, Wichita, Kan., and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott, Ariz., campus.

The industry improved in two of the four elements of the AQR: involuntary denied boardings and customer complaints. However, performance declined in on-time performance and baggage handling in 2013.

The airline industry has performed well in recent years, according to the researchers. In addition to 2013 being the best year ever, Dean Headley, associate professor of marketing at the W. Frank Barton School of Business at Wichita State University, says the strong performance by Delta shows that a large, merged airline is able to compete with the best performing smaller airline.

“Bigger hasn’t always been better, but in Delta’s case we are seeing a large airline perform at levels usually only seen by smaller low-fare carriers.”

The AQR score reflects commendable efforts by the airline industry to serve customers in a capacity-limited air travel system.

“When you look at the past 14 years, you find that the airline industry performs most efficiently when the system isn’t stressed by high passenger volume and high number of airplanes in the air,” said Headley. “With continued capacity limits and consolidation, one would hope that a less congested system would perform better.

“The challenge is whether airline performance quality improvements at this level can be maintained as more people choose to fly. Or does the infrastructure and air traffic control technology limit what the airlines can actually do?”

Below is the 2013 numerical ranking of the nation’s leading 15 airlines, according to the Airline Quality Rating, with the 2012 ranking in parentheses:

1.Virgin America (1)
2.JetBlue (2)
3.Hawaiian (5)
4.Delta (4)
5.Alaska (6)
6.Endeavor (new to the rankings this year; formerly Pinnacle)
7.US Airways (9)
8.Southwest (8)
9.American (10)
10.AirTran (3)
11.Frontier (7)
12.United (14)
13.ExpressJet (13)
14.SkyWest (12)
15.American Eagle (11)

Virgin America and JetBlue remained No. 1 and 2 in 2013. Hawaiian, US Airways and United all improved two spots in the rating, to No. 3, 7 and 12 respectively. The biggest drop was AirTran from No. 3 to 10. Frontier and American Eagle each dropped four spots in the rating for 2013.

Hawaiian Airlines had the best on-time performance (93.3 percent) for 2013, and American Eagle had the worst (72.1 percent).

Only two airlines improved their on-time arrival performance in 2013. Six of the 15 airlines rated had an on-time arrival percentage of better than 80 percent. On-time performance for the industry in 2013 was 78.4 percent compared to 81.8 percent in 2012.

JetBlue and Virgin America are clearly the industry leaders in avoiding denied boarding incidents with a rate of 0.01 and 0.04 per 10,000 passengers, respectively. SkyWest had the highest involuntary denied boarding rate at 2.55 per 10,000 passengers.
Eight airlines improved their denied boardings rate in 2013. United recorded the greatest improvement, and Frontier had the largest decline.

Overall, the industry had 0.89 denied boardings per 10,000 passengers in 2013, compared to 0.97 in 2012.

Virgin America had the best baggage handling rate (0.97 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers) of all airlines, and American Eagle had the worst baggage handling rate (5.90 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers).

Only five airlines had improved mishandled baggage rates in 2013. The industry rate increased from 3.07 per 1,000 passengers in 2012 to 3.21 in 2013.

Southwest again had the lowest consumer complaint rate (0.34 per 100,000 passengers) of all airlines. Frontier had the highest consumer complaint rate (3.09 per 100,000 passengers).

Customer complaints per 100,000 passengers decreased from 1.43 in 2012 to 1.13 in 2013. The majority of complaints to the Department of Transportation were for flight problems (35.9 percent), customer service (14.4 percent) baggage (14.2 percent) and reservations, ticketing and boarding (12.8 percent).

Dino D'Amore
By Dino D'Amore April 8, 2014 19:20
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