Wednesday, April 15, 2015

America's Best Airlines

The annual Airline Quality Report from Wichita State University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University was just published and the news is not good for the traveling consumer. Overall, the airline industry dropped in quality over the course of 2014, down to a low not seen since 2009.
The study ranks carriers by a four trackable metrics including on-time percent, denied boardings, mishandled baggage and customer complaints, then weighs each category based on its consumer impact. Not considered are more subjective measures such as cabin comfort and design, customer service or quality of aircraft — unless, that is, a customer complaint was filed.
The good news, however, is that not all airlines declined in quality. Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines and Virgin America all managed to improve their rankings from the 2014 study, helping keep them among the top five airlines in the nation. Including them, the top five airlines were:
  1. Virgin America
  2. Hawaiian Airlines
  3. Delta
  4. JetBlue
  5. Alaska Airlines
#1: Virgin America - Virgin America held its number one spot again for the third year straight
The bottom of the twelve member pack was filled largely with regional carriers. Ranked from worst to least-worst, those were
  1. Envoy / American Eagle
  2. ExpressJet
  3. SkyWest
  4. United
  5. Frontier

At large, much of the decrease in overall score this year likely comes from the difficult 2013-2014 winter handled across the Midwest and the Atlantic coast. Numerous airports were shut down during a series of storms during the season, driving down on-time percentages and ballooning customer complaints. Hawaiian Airlines, an airline that doesn’t have to deal with massive snowstorms, perennially benefits from this loophole.
It is also a bit unfair to see regional carriers like Envoy, ExpressJet and SkyWest in bottom tier of the rankings. As feeder airlines, these carriers often are the first to see cancellations and other disruptions when poor weather strikes. Without them though, the main carriers would suffer from the same problems.
In general, however, the AQR is a good thumbnail for not only how good the domestic airline industry is performing but also for where it’s headed. As usual, the boutique carriers of Virgin America and JetBlue got high marks while Delta, an airline that many prefer because if its better planes and service, also fared well.
There are also a few silver linings to the report despite the weather dragging down scores. JetBlue’s on-time performance improved, even though it has a hub in New York City; Virgin America’s rate of customer complaints and mishandled luggage both went down; Delta’s rate of mishandled bags is dropping precipitously. With better weather already in the books for 2015, next year’s AQR should see some nice improvement.
This year’s full report can be found here.
Post a Comment