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2016 Airline Quality Survey Results Show Performance Improvements

Michael Gray
Flickr Creative Commons

Results from the 26th annual Airline Quality Rating survey were released Monday morning. The survey reveals the 13 best performing airlines in the U.S. for 2015. Industry performance has improved overall, but complaints are up.

According to the survey, conducted by Wichita State University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona, the airlines are doing better at on-time arrival, not overbooking so travelers don’t get bumped, and handling people’s bags.

But while services are reported to have improved, public perception has not.

“Generally things seem to be moving in the right direction, but yet people are complaining at a volume that they have not complained at for 15 years," says Dean Headley, a professor of marketing at WSU and co-author of the study.

Six airlines--Delta, ExpressJet, JetBlue, SkyWest, Southwest, and United--all showed improvements in their Airline Quality Rating scores from the past year.

Hawaiian Airlines was rated highest for being on time, Spirit Airlines rated worst. Virgin America was rated best for baggage handling issues; Envoy Air was rated worst.

Spirit Airlines, in its first year on the list, ranked at the bottom of the 13 airlines rated. Headley says Spirit had an extremely high complaint rate.

"Over 11 complaints per hundred thousand passengers where the industry rate is 1.9, so it’s almost 10 times the industry rate," he says. "So they’ve got some work to do."

The majority of the complaints were flight problems. Headley says in a merged industry, four airlines-- American, Southwest, United and Delta--make up 70 percent of all the passenger volume in the U.S. He says customers have to keep the pressure on the airlines for better service.


Carla Eckels is assistant news director and the host of Soulsations. Follow her on Twitter @Eckels.

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