Virgin America best US airline performer in 2012
Virgin America did the best job for its customers among leading airlines last year, a report said on Monday, as carriers overall had their second-best performance in the more than two decades since researchers began measuring quality of service.
The report ranked the 14 largest airlines based on on-time arrivals, mishandled bags, consumer complaints and passengers who bought tickets but were turned away because flights were overbooked.
Airline performance in 2012 was the second highest in the 23 years that Wichita State University in Kansas and the University of Nebraska at Omaha have tracked the performance of airlines. The airline's best year was 2011.
Besides being the overall leader, Virgin America, headquartered in Burlingame, Calif., did the best job on baggage handling and had the second-lowest rate of passengers denied seats because of overbookings. United Airlines, whose consumer complaint rate nearly doubled last year, had the worst performance. United has merged with Continental Airlines, but has had rough spots in integrating the operations of the two carriers.
The rate at which passengers with tickets were denied seats because planes were full rose to 0.97 denials per 10,000 passengers last year, compared with 0.78 in 2011.
It used to be in cases of overbookings that airlines usually could find a passenger who would volunteer to give up a seat in exchange for cash, a free ticket or some other compensation with the expectation of catching another flight later that day or the next morning. Not anymore.
“Since flights are so full, there are no seats on those next flights. So people say, ‘No, not for $500, not for $1,000,' ” airline industry analyst Robert W. Mann Jr. said.
Regional carrier SkyWest had the highest involuntary denied-boardings rate last year, 2.32 per 10,000 passengers.
But not every airline overbooks flights in an effort to keep seats full. JetBlue and Virgin America were the industry leaders in avoiding denied boardings, with rates of 0.01 and 0.07, respectively.
United Airlines' consumer complaint rate was 4.24 complaints per 100,000 passengers. Southwest had the lowest rate, at 0.25. Southwest was among five airlines that lowered complaint rates last year compared to 2011. The others were American Eagle, Delta, JetBlue and US Airways.
Consumer complaints were significantly higher in the peak summer travel months of June, July and August when planes are crowded. This is the first year Virgin America, formed in 2007, has been large enough to be included in the rankings.
United carries 18 times more passengers than Virgin America, and has 702 planes, compared with 52 for the smaller carrier.
The number of complaints consumers filed with the Department of Transportation overall surged by one-fifth last year to 11,445 complaints, up from 9,414 in 2011.
“Over the 20-some-year history we've looked at it, this is still the best time of airline performance we've ever seen,” said Dean Headley, a business professor at Wichita State University in Kansas, who has co-written the annual report. The best year was 2011, which was only slightly better than last year, he said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Fifth Third Bank selling Pittsburgh branches to First National
- Alcoa putting $60M into Upper Burrell tech center expansion
- Pa. business interests decry EPA ozone proposal as economic albatross
- Trib Total Media puts 9 Western Pa. newspapers up for sale
- Just Mayo has egg industry in a panic, emails show
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau gives alternative to customer service frustrations
- PPG’s new CEO to push organic growth with existing clients
- Stock indexes enter correction territory; bear market could be lurking
- Housing bright spot as Beige Book survey shows Pittsburgh region’s growth slight
- Steelworkers union says ATI talks to resume
- U.S. stocks bounce back from precipitous drop