US Airline Quality Study Puts Alaska Airlines on Top

Print Email

Rating airline performance can be accomplished in two basic ways. First, subjective surveys of passengers can be accumulated and a ranking can be based on some associated number crunch.

A second way of ranking airlines is to use the data the airlines themselves submit monthly to the U.S. Department of Transportation on such things as on-time performance and customer complaints. For the past 28 years, Professors Brent D. Bowen of Emory-Riddle Aeronautical University and Dean E. Headly of Wichita State University have calculated an Airline Quality Rating (AQR) based on the Transportation Department’s monthly reports. The 2018 report using data collected in 2017 was released Monday morning.

Overall, the U.S. airline industry improved its performance quality in 2017. Of 12 airlines included in the research, nine showed year-over-year improvement and the overall industry score was the best it has ever been.

Because the AQR uses a weighted scoring system and three of four criteria are based on negative indicators like denied boardings, mishandled baggage and other complaints, reported scores are negative. The positive criterion is on-time performance. The top scorer is the one with the smallest negative score.

Here is the ranking of the 12 U.S. airlines along with its AQR scores for 2018 and 2017.

  1. Alaska Airlines: AQR of −0.437, worse than −0.39 in 2017. Performance improved in only one of four categories: denied boardings.
  2. Delta Air Lines: AQR of −0.442, worse than −0.40. Performance improved in one of four categories: denied boardings.
  3. JetBlue Airways: AQR of −0.58, better than −0.60. Performance improved in one of four categories: denied boardings.
  4. Hawaiian Airlines: AQR of −0.68, better than −0.69. Performance improved in two of four categories: mishandled baggage and denied boardings.
  5. Southwest Airlines: AQR of −0.73, better than −0.88. Performance improved in two of four categories: mishandled baggage and denied boardings.
  6. SkyWest Airlines: AQR of −0.756, better than −0.97. Performance improved in two of four categories: mishandled baggage and denied boardings.
  7. Virgin America: AQR of −0.758, worse than −0.50. Performance worsened in all four categories: on-time performance, mishandled baggage, denied boardings and customer complaints.
  8. United Airlines: AQR of −0.86, better than −1.05. Performance improved in all four categories.
  9. American Airlines: AQR of −1.03, better than −1.35. Performance improved in all four categories.
  10. ExpressJet: AQR of −1.06, better than −1.36. Performance improved in two of four categories: mishandled baggage and denied boardings.
  11. Frontier Airlines: AQR of −1.23, better than −2.24. Performance improved in all four categories.
  12. Spirit Airlines: AQR of −1.66, better than −2.01. Performance improved in three of four categories: on-time performance, mishandled baggage and customer complaints.

The full report, including month-by-month performance of each airline, is available at the Emory-Riddle website.