Virgin America (San Francisco) claimed the top spot for the third consecutive year, but overall U.S. airline performance slipped in 2014, according to the 25th annual Airline Quality Rating (AQR) released Monday. The AQR is a joint research project at Wichita State University (Wichita, Kansas) and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Prescott, Arizona, campus.
Overall, the airline industry collectively declined in the AQR’s four core elements of the study: on-time performance, involuntary denied boardings, mishandled baggage and customer complaints.
Co-researchers Dr. Dean Headley and Dr. Brent Bowen agree that the weaker overall performance shows that the recent round of mergers means airlines still have work to do to compete for customer loyalty.
Dr. Headley is the associate professor of marketing at the W. Frank Barton School of Business at Wichita State University. Dr. Bowen is the dean of College of Aviation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Prescott, Ariz., campus.
An electronic version of the full report, with details on each airline, is available at http://airlinequalityrating.com.
Below is the 2014 numerical ranking of the nation’s leading 12 airlines, according to the AQR, with 2013 ranking in parentheses:
Virgin America (1)
Southwest (8) (includes AirTran)
American (9) (includes USAirways)
United (12) (includes Continental)
Envoy/ American Eagle (15)
On-time performance – Hawaiian Airlines had the best on-time performance (91.9 percent) for 2014, and Envoy/American Eagle had the worst (68.8 percent).
Denied boardings – Virgin America and Hawaiian are the industry leaders in avoiding denied boarding incidents with a rate of 0.09 and 0.12 per 10,000 passengers, respectively. ExpressJet and SkyWest had the highest involuntary denied boarding rate at 2.71 per 10,000 passengers for both airlines.
Baggage handling – Virgin America had the best baggage handling rate (0.95 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers) and Envoy/American Eagle had the worst baggage handling rate (9.02 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers).
Consumer complaints – Alaska had the lowest consumer complaint rate (0.42 per 100,000 passengers). Frontier had the highest consumer complaint rate (3.91 per 100,000 passengers).
Virgin America took the opportunity to boast about its ranking with this banner ad:
Top Copyright Photo: Michael B. Ing/AirlinersGallery.com. Airbus A320-214 N835VA (msn 4448) of Virgin America taxies to the runway at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).