Airlines Perform Worse, Passengers File Fewer Complaints

If you have very, very low standards, you’re seldom disappointed, right? That seems to be reason for Americans’ attitudes toward airlines. As an annual independent study of airlines’ relative crappiness shows that airlines are doing worse on quality measures like number of bags lost, number of flights that arrived on time, and other measures of things that can make flying a miserable experience.

Every year, researchers who are now based at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Wichita State University go through airlines’ mandatory filings and compile the statistics that can make flying a miserable experience.

They weight the quality ratings to give greater importance to some stats: on-time arrival, for example, is the largest part of the ratings. This all results in the annual Airline Quality Rating report.

Overall, 78.4% of flights arrived on time in 2013. That’s down 3.4% from the on-time percentage in 2012. As for baggage, 3.21 out of every 1,000 bags were “mishandled” by airlines in 2013, also up slightly from 2012. (That’s only .03% of all bags, though, so not bad.)

Consumers’ standards are apparently getting lower, though, because fewer of us are complaining. Only 1.13 passengers per 100,000 filed complaints in 2013. That’s complaints that consumers took to the Department of Transportation, though — not complaint letters to the airlines or airports.

The top airlines, according to their total AQR scores, were Virgin America, JetBlue, and Hawaiian Airlines. Make your travel plans accordingly. The airlines with the lowest rankings are American Eagle, SkyWest, and ExpressJet.

Airline Quality Rating 2014 [Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University] (PDF Download)
As Airline Quality Worsens, Traveler Complaints Fall [Bloomberg Businessweek]