According to an annual study that was released on Monday, Hawaiian Airlines did the greatest job for flyers last year. Following closely behind was AirTran, a low-cost carrier.
In the last four years, Hawaiian has held the number one spot three times. The ratings are compiled by private researchers and are based upon a combination of airlines’ records divided into four different categories: punctual performance, mismanaged baggage, denied boarding, and customer complaints to the U.S Department of Transportation.
Three years ago AirTran held the number one spot and since then has been battling with Hawaiian to be number one. Last year AirTran was also the runner up. While the traffic of flyers was down last year in comparison to past years, those who did fly were treated better. Customers found that planes were landing on-time more often and their bags were being handled with more care.
Because of this, there were fewer complaints filed by travelers, even when the carrier they were flying with charged for everything under the sun, from bags to pillows.
In 2007, U.S. air travel was at a high of 770 million passengers, and this was when airline performance suffered greatly. Performance started to improve just two years ago when the economy began to effect air travel severely. In 2008 passengers dropped to around 750 million, and in 2009 fell to 704 million.
“We kind of turned a little bit of a corner in ’08 and we’re glad to say they’re continuing that generally positive (trend) for the consumer,” said Dean Headley, a Wichita State University professor and co-author of an annual analysis of airline quality. “Every airline that we looked at in ’08 and ’09 got better.”
One of the only problems that has arisen during the increase of performance quality these past few years has been the rise of denied boardings. This is usually due to overbooking, and is a natural result of fuller planes which is caused by a decrease in the scheduled flights number, Headley explained.
Since the recession, airlines have been struggling to find ways to generate income other than by raising airfares. U.S. Airlines together lost $8 billion dollars in 2009, despite the fact that regional carriers as a group were profitable, says the Federal Aviation Administration.
In 2009 more than 79 percent of airline flights arrived on time. That’s a 3.4 percent improvement from the year before. Fourteen of 18 airlines included in the analysis increased their on-time performance from the previous year. At the very bottom was Comair, with just 69 percent of flights on time. Slightly better was Atlantic Southeast, with 71.2 percent.
Less than 1 in every 100,000 passengers complained to the Department of transportation last year, which is a small improvement from the year before. Delta had the highest complaint rate with 1.96, and Southwest had the least with .21.
Ratings are based on stats for airlines that carry at least 1 percent of the passengers who took domestic flights last year. Research is sponsored by Perdue University in Indiana and by Wichita State University in Kansas.
Source: Associated Press