For the fourth consecutive year Virgin America is recognized as the top airline among the largest airlines in the United States. The 26th annual national Airline Quality Rating report was released the same day Alaska Airlines announced that it would buy Virgin American for $2.6 billion.
The second place winner, JetBlue, third place winner, Delta, and fourth place winner, Hawaiian, follow Virgin America on the report.
Despite the high rankings for these airlines and industry improvements, many air travelers remain discontent with the air industry’s overall quality and service. In three of the four categories measured, passenger complaints rose by 38% from 2014 to 2015.
The Airline Quality Rating report’s co-author, Dean Headley, notes that this is the highest rate of customer complaints the industry has seen in 15 years. “The last time it got this high was in 2001,” he said.
Headley suspects that customers are dissatisfied with both rising ticket prices and a lack of improvement in the way of in-flight amenities. Making matters worse, is the fact that the nation’s top airlines saved around $11 billion in fuel costs in 2015, but did little to improve the customer experience.
What did the airlines do for customers with that new lump sum? “Some food here and there and maybe a new airplane, but as an industry, it’s not overly noticeable,” Headley said.
The reports co-authors, Headley and Brent Bowen, feel that this year’s report reflects travelers’ dissatisfaction. The report uses data gathered from the US Department of Transportation’s monthly Air Travel Consumer Report, focusing on four performance categories: on-time performance, mishandled bags, involuntary denied boardings, and customer complaints.
In on-time performance, mishandled bags, and involuntary denied boardings, the industry saw an overall improvement from 2014 to 2015. There was a significant increase, however, in customer complaints from 2014 to 2015.
Spirit Airlines (13) and Envoy Air (12) performed the worst on the list. Spirit, new to the list in 2015, ranked last in on-time flights and had the highest number of customer complaints of any airline on the list. Envoy had the highest rate of involuntary denied boardings and was also recognized as the worst in baggage handling.
Hawaiian Airlines ranked first in on-time performance, while Alaska Airlines had the lowest number of complaints, at only 0.5 complaints per 100,000 customers. Virgin America was rated the best for baggage handling, and JetBlue was reported to have the fewest number of involuntary denied boardings.
The overall 2015 rankings are as follows:
1. Virgin America
12. Envoy Air
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