Airlines in America are suddenly getting worse after improving steadily for eight years and hitting a high point in 2013. Just look at the figures – the latest rankings were released last night.
Virgin America was the best of the bunch for the second year running. But overall, the picture is not good. Complaints by airline passengers shot up by 20%. The US industry’s rate of on-time arrivals declined from 78.4% of scheduled flights in 2013 to 76.2% last year.
Just for comparison, in Australia in February 2015, on time performance over all domestic routes operated by Jetstar, Qantas, QantasLink, Regional Express, Tigerair, Virgin Australia and Virgin Australia Regional Airlines averaged 87% for on-time arrivals.
According to America’s Airline Quality Rating report, a major annual comparative study of US airlines, the US airline industry’s performance declined across the board last year after the peak in 2013.
Here are the airline quality ratings for 2014, listed by individual carriers (with their 2013 rankings in brackets):
- Virgin America (1)
- Hawaiian Airlines (3)
- Delta Air Lines (4)
- JetBlue Airways (2)
- Alaska Airlines (5)
- Southwest Airlines (8)
- American Airlines (including US Airways) (9)
- Frontier Airlines (11)
- United Airlines (12)
- SkyWest Airways (14)
- ExpressJet Airlines (13)
- Envoy Air (15)
Last year’s survey, the 2013 report, was the best report in the nearly 25 years that the report has been compiled.
As for 2014, observers are bewildered that the industry could fall so far so fast. Standards fell in all four areas surveyed: baggage handling, consumer complaints, denied boardings and on-time arrivals. Most of the 12 airlines in the report saw declines in performance.
Last year’s harsh winter weather may have contributed, but report co-author Brent Bowen of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona told the Dallas News: “Perhaps management in the midst of industry consolidations just dropped the ball … in demanding high performance that’s important to the consumer.”
The US industry’s rate of on-time arrivals declined from 78.4% of scheduled flights in 2013 to 76.2% last year. Hawaiian Airlines posted the best on-time performance (91.9%) last year.
Envoy Air, a regional carrier for American that flies as American Eagle, had the worst on-time record (68.8%), the Dallas News noted.
In other sectors of airline endeavour:
- The industry’s customer complaint rate rose from 1.13 per 100,000 passengers in 2013 to 1.38.
- The industry’s denied boardings rate rose to 0.92 per 10,000 passengers in 2014 from 0.89 in 2013.
- The industry’s mishandled-baggage rate climbed from 3.21 reports per 1,000 passengers in 2013 to 3.62 in 2014.
Curiously, in the year measured, 2014, the industry’s net profit nearly doubled, and North American carriers saw a 30% increase.
The Airline Quality Rating (AQR) was developed and first announced in early 1991 as an objective method for assessing airline quality on combined multiple performance criteria. This current report, the Airline Quality Rating 2015, reflects monthly Airline Quality Rating scores for calendar year 2014. AQR scores for 2015 are based on 15 elements in four major areas that focus on airline performance aspects important to air travel consumers over the calendar year of 2014.
Written by Peter Needham