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The 2013 Airline Quality Rating, a joint undertaking by professors at Purdue and Wichita State universities, was published this week with its annual review and rankings of U.S. airlines’ performance during the previous year.
The study incorporates 15 elements in four areas of airline performance: mishandled bags, on-time arrivals, denied boardings, and customer complaints. The report synthesizes data compiled by the DOT for its monthly Air Travel Consumer Report, and assigns U.S. airlines a higher or lower AQR (Airline Quality Rating) accordingly.
For 2012, the winners and losers, from best to worst, are as follows:
While the study has the look and feel of rigorous quantitative analysis, there’s a fundamentally subjective set of choices at its core. The various factors are weighted according to the opinions of a panel of “airline experts,” whose perceptions may or may not accord with those of the traveling public. For example, the study overweights on-time performance and underweights customer complaints.
Looking into performance in specific areas yields a mixed picture. On the positive side, the study showed more on-time flights (up to 82 percent in 2012 from 80 percent in 2011) and fewer lost bags (an 8 percent improvement over the previous year).
Among the highlights:
But denied boardings increased from .78 per 10,000 passengers in 2011 to .97 in 2012. And more generally, customer complaints increased almost 20 percent over last year, suggesting a decline in the overall travel experience.
Forest for the Trees
Good. Bad. Better. Best.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the rankings and data points.
What stands out to me — what I think should be overweighted — is the increase in complaints. That speaks to the degradation of the travel experience overall.
Bottom line: In the minds of an increasing number of travelers, airline quality remains an oxymoron.
Reader Reality Check
How did your preferred airlines fare?
How do the study results square with your own experience?
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