Airlines Are Getting Better (DAL, LUV, UAL, AMR, ALK, JBLU, LCC, AAI, SKYW, HA)

How much are US air travelers willing to put up with from the airlines? The short answer is probably, “A lot,” because, after all, we don’t have a lot of choices. Business travelers are often locked into one or two airlines because their companies have deals with those carriers. Occasional travelers could be signed up with one or two airlines’ frequent flyer or other reward programs. And some live far enough out in the wilderness, that choice is dictated by which airlines serve the nearest airport.

All that aside, let’s look at on-time rankings and percentage for the first 10 months of 2010, as reported by the US Department of Transportation for the 10 largest publicly traded US carriers as measured by market cap. We’ll also list overbookings per 10,000 passengers (DBs) for the first nine months of 2010 and mishandled baggage reports per 1,000 passengers for the month of October 2010.

The ten companies we’ll chart are Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL), Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE: LUV), United Continental Holdings (NYSE: UAL), AMR Corp. (NYSE: AMR), Alaska Air Group Inc. (NYSE: ALK), JetBlue Airways Corp. (NASDAQ: JBLU), US Airways Group, Inc. (NYSE: LCC), AirTran Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: AAI), SkyWest Inc. (NYSE: SKYW), and Hawaiian Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: HA).

As a whole, the airlines industry got less than 1 complaint of any kind for every 100,000 travelers during the month of October. It’s worth pointing out that only complaints filed with the US Department of Transportation show up in the statistics though. Travelers who complain only to the airlines are not included in this count.

AIRLINE MKT CAP OnTimeRank OnTime% DBs/Rank Bag/Rank
Delta 10.6B 14 78.2 0.45/4 2.8/8
Southwest 9.5B 8 81 1.41/12 2.86/10
United 8.6B 3 84.8 1.35/11 2.42/6
American 2.6B 13 79.2 0.90/9 2.84/9
Alaska 2.1B 2 88.3 1.21/10 2.52/7
JetBlue 2.0B 16 77.2 0.01/1 2.11/2
US Air 1.8B 4 82.9 1.85/13 2.15/4
AirTran 1.0B 9 80.8 0.43/3 1.41/1
SkyWest 916M 10 80.4 0.74/7 3.67/13
Hawaiian 392M 1 92.4 0.05/2 3.2/11

For comparison, the Transportation Safety Administration reported that it received 317 complaints related to customer courtesy in October. The agency also received 196 damaged baggage claims in October. That’s on a base of 55 million passengers with 44 million checked bags. Given the new screening procedures, those numbers are likely to go up in November and December.

Being bumped from flights is almost entirely a thing of the past since new limits on required payments to passengers were installed. And now that most airlines charge to check baggage, passengers don’t check as many bags and the airlines don’t lose as many.

Our takeaway on all this: fly Hawaiian Airlines at every opportunity, but don’t check any bags. Aloha.

Paul Ausick

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