Airline quality report sorts out the duds from the dynamos in 2012

If you travel on a plane and arriving on time makes a difference, try to book on Hawaiian Airlines. In 2012, passengers got where they needed to go without delay on the discount carrier more than nine times out of 10, according to a study released on Monday.

In fact, Hawaiian got even better from 2011 when it had a 92.8% on-time performance. Last year, it improved to 93.4%.

The Airline Quality Rankings Report looks at the 14 largest U.S. airlines and is based on an analysis of U.S. Department of Transportation figures. It's co-authored by Brent Bowen, the head of the Department of Aviation Technology at Purdue University, and Dean Headley of Wichita State.

In addition to on-time performance, the joint project looks at three other categories: rate of consumer complaints, mishandled bags and denied boarding performance.

At a time when U.S. airlines are a whipping post for passenger complaints about crowded flights, tight seats, costly tickets and unsatisfactory service, there is a glimmer of hope.

Eight airlines improved their on-time arrival performance in 2012. Nine of the 14 rated had an on-time arrival percentage of more than 80%.

ExpressJet and American Airlines had the worst on-time performance (76.9%) last year, according to the data gathered in the 23rd annual report.

Virgin America had the best baggage handling rate of all the airlines (0.87 misplaced bags per 1,000 passengers.) American Eagle showed improvement from 2011 but still came in last, fumbling baggage at a rate of 5.80 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers.

When it came to complaints last year, Southwest again had the lowest consumer rate (0.25 per 100,000 passengers) while the distinction of being the airline with the highest consumer complaint rate went to United Airlines (4.24 per 100,000.)

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