Airline Quality Falls
The overall quality of the airline industry has continued its descent, as air carriers are delaying more flights, mishandling more bags, and denying more passengers with confirmed reservations to board due to overselling, according to the 17th annual national Airline Quality Ratings (AQR) study. The rating is conducted annually by the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) Aviation Institute and W. Frank Barton School of Business at Wichita State University.
The AQR, a summary of month-by-month quality ratings for the largest domestic U.S. airlines operating in 2006, is based on four segments: on-time arrival, mishandled baggage, involuntary denied boardings, and customer complaints, according to the report. These components are reported in the Air Travel Consumer Report, which is maintained by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Findings reveal that the overall industry AQR score took a hit, going from 2005's -1.73 to 2006's -1.87. On-time arrival percentage suffered, shifting from 77.3 percent in 2005 to 75.5 percent in 2006, and involuntary denied boardings per passenger served jumped from 0.89 per 10,000 passengers in 2006 to 1.01 per 10,000 passengers in 2006. Mishandled baggage rates increased from 6.06 per 1,000 customers in 2005 to 2006's 6.50 per 1,000 passengers. However, the customer complaints metric, which includes 12 elements, experienced a slender improvement, going from 0.89 per 100,000 passengers in 2005 to 2006's 0.88 per 100,000 passengers.
Eighteen airlines were examined for the study; new entries include Frontier Airlines and Mesa, while data of the merged operations of US Airways and America West airlines are combined, and appear only as US Air data, according to the report. JetBlue Airways, which has grabbed the first seed for the past three years, dropped to the second post, losing its crown to AQR study newcomer Hawaiian Airlines. It is important to note, however, that the report is based on 2006 performance, so it does not include JetBlue's February fiasco.
The remaining airlines earning slots in the top 10 include AirTran Airways, Frontier Airlines, Northwest Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Continental Airlines, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and American Airlines, while ATA Airlines, Delta Air Lines, US Air, SkyWest, Mesa, Comair, American Eagle Airlines, and Atlantic Southeast Airlines round out the rest of the overall ranking.
Hawaiian secured the top spots for on-time performance (its planes were on time 93.8 percent of the time), while Atlantic Southeast pulled in the lowest score (its planes were on time 66 percent of the time. Hawaiian also had the best baggage handling rate (3.14 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers), whereas Atlantic Southeast's 17.37 per 1,000 passengers was the lowest. JetBlue has the strongest involuntary denied boardings rate (0.07 per 10,000 passengers), while Atlantic Southeast's 4.47 per 10,000 passengers was the worst. Southwest faired the best in customer complaints (0.18 per 100,000 passengers), and United and US Air tied for the worst with 1.36 per 100,000 passengers.
"The stress in the airline system is across the board," coresearcher Brent Bowen, director and professor at the UNO Aviation Institute/School of Public Administration, said in a statement. "Passengers, airline staff, airline corporations are as stretched as we have ever seen them. Seeing declines in industry performance isn't surprising in this environment, and it will be difficult to change the trends we have seen."
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