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Published: Wed, April 12, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

US airlines show improvement in annual study

US airlines show improvement in annual study

Airlines performed better previous year than they had for nearly the last three decades, according to an annual report on airline quality released Monday.

And consumer complaints across the industry declined to 1.52 per 100,000 passengers past year, down from 1.90 in 2015.

In April 2016, Seattle-based Alaska Air Group publicly announced it would be acquiring Virgin America in 2017 to form the nation's fifth-largest airline. "The 20% decrease in the rate of consumer complaints in 2016 suggests that improved performance in important areas to consumers has been noticed".

Along with the industrywide analysis, the report also individually ranked the 12 USA airlines that carried at least 1% of domestic passenger traffic in 2016.

"This is the best year ever in terms of the performance of airlines in the 27 years we've done this report", said Headley.

Meanwhile, the two biggest carriers at Tucson and Phoenix Sky Harbor worldwide airports, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, did not perform as well among the 12 carriers studied.

"Customer service will be an area of improvement in 2017, as we have launched a new training program for our front-line team members", his statement said.

A recent report on airline quality released by the Wichita State University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University researchers has painted a rather rosy picture of the airlines industry in the United States.

Frontier Airlines came in last in the rankings at the number 12 spot, with Spirit Airlines scoring second to last at number 11.

NOTE: The 2015 rating included 13 airlines. According to TripAdvisor reviews, Alaska scored highest on cleanliness, customer service, and its boarding and check-in process.

"Spirit is, by far, the most improved", said Dean Headley, co-author of the report and an associate professor at Wichita State's Barton School of Business. Six of the 12 airlines rated had an on-time arrival percentage of better than 80 percent.

Not all airlines saw improvement, however. Overall, the industry had 0.62 denied boardings per 10,000 passengers in 2016, compared to 0.76 in 2015- the best rate since the AQR started in 1991. Seven of the 12 airlines improved in all four categories, including rate of involuntary denied boardings.

Baggage Handling - Virgin America had the best baggage handling rate (1.03 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers) of all airlines, and ExpressJet had the worst baggage handling rate (4.31).

In 2016, the airline industry mishandled baggage rate decreased from 3.24 per 1,000 passengers in 2015 to 2.70 per 1,000 passengers.

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