The new Airline Quality Rating is out and Southwest airlines received the fewest complaints of any airline in 2006. United and US Airways both tied for the highest number of complaints.
Overall, the airline experience got worse in 2006, due to increased passenger load and decreased capacity to handle it, according to Dean Headley, associate professor of marketing at Wichita State University (WSU) and co-author of the study: “We’re back to full passenger volume similar as we were before 9/11. We also have about 18-20 percent less seat capacity in the system now,” Headley said. “It’s just a very complex system with high volume, and it just doesn’t hold up well to the pressure.”
Most of the complaints were about flight problems or baggage handling. The overall mishandled baggage rate increased from 6.06 per 1,000 passengers in 2005 to 6.50 in 2006. The airlines with the overall best 3 scores were Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue and AirTran. —MEGHANN MARCO