You probably didn’t need a study to tell you that the airline industry is getting worse, but a report out this week confirms your suspicions anyway. U.S. airlines lost more bags, had more late flights, and earned more complaints from customers in 2014 since 2009, concludes the annual Airline Quality Rating report. Individual performances of the 12 airlines also went down in most categories.
The report is a joint project of researchers at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Wichita State University that has been tracking government data on airline performance since 1991. Researchers Dean Headley of Wichita State and Brent Bowen of Embry-Riddle said they analyze U.S. Department of Transportation statistics in four areas: on-time performance, baggage handling, customer complaints and being involuntarily bumped from a flight.
And while they know for many Americans the report’s conclusion is no surprise, “We just got the numbers to prove it,” Headley said.
“The airlines are making more money than they ever have, and it doesn’t look like they’re turning that back into improved performance for the air traveling public,” Bowen told the Chicago Tribune. “Just look at the long lines and the understaffedness at the ticket counters, the reliance on automation. It’s just going crazy.”
The report released Monday also ranked the U.S. airlines from best to worst. Virgin America came out on top while American Eagle/Envoy, the regional carrier for American Airlines, had the worst performance overall.
The report’s findings are outlined below:
Scheduled flights were on time 76.2 percent of the time in 2014, down from 78.4 percent in 2013. Hawaiian Airlines had the best performance in this area (91.9 percent on-time arrivals), while regional carrier Envoy Air had the worst (68.8 percent on-time arrivals).
Only two airlines, Frontier and JetBlue, actually improved their on-time arrivals in 2014. Other airlines all saw a decline.
The industry had 1.38 complaints per 100,000 passengers in 2014, up from 1.13 in 2013. The worst offender in this category was Frontier Airlines, with complaints nearly tripling the industry average. American Airlines, the world’s largest carrier, had nearly double the industry average.
The overall number of complaints rose 17 percent, to 11,364 in 2014. These are the complaints individual travelers file with the U.S. Department of Transportation, not the airlines themselves.
Denied boardings averaged 0.92 per 10,000 passengers in 2014, a slight increase from 0.89 in 2013. Virgin America was the strongest performer in this category, with 0.09 denied boardings per 10,000 passengers while ExpressJet and SkyWest tied for the bottom spot, both posting 2.71 denied boardings per 10,000 passengers.
The mishandled baggage rate in 2014 was 3.62 per 1,000 passengers, up from 3.21 in 2013. Virgin America had the fewest problems in this category, with 0.95 mishandlings per 1,000 passengers while Envoy had the worst, with 9.02 per 1,000 passengers.
- Virgin America
- Southwest (includes AirTran)
- American (includes USAirways)
- United (includes Continental)
- Envoy/American Eagle