WSU: Airline performance in 2012 second best ever
Apr 8, 2013 8:30 AM | Print
Airline performance in 2012 was the second highest in 23 years that researchers have tracked the performance of airlines. Passengers are experiencing better performance by the airlines, although it might cost more to fly.
The performance of the nation's leading carriers in 2012 was nearly identical to the best year ever in 2011 (http://airlinequalityrating.com), according to the 23rd annual national Airline Quality Rating.
The rankings released today (Monday, April 8) at the National Press Club show that of the 14 carriers rated for performance in both 2011 and 2012, seven airlines improved, five airlines declined and two are new to the rankings, including the overall No. 1 performing airline, Virgin America.
The Airline Quality Rating is a joint research project funded as part of faculty research activities at Wichita State University and Purdue University.
The industry improved in two of the four elements of the AQR: on-time performance and baggage handling. Involuntary denied boardings and the customer complaint rate were higher in 2012.
The AQR score reflects commendable efforts by the airline industry to serve customers in a capacity limited air travel system, according to Dean Headley, associate professor of marketing at the W. Frank Barton School of Business at Wichita State University.
"As the system adjusts to increasing demand for air travel with a limited capacity of seats available, operations must be carefully handled for things to go as planned for travelers," said Headley. "During 2012, the industry improved the mishandled baggage rate by 8 percent, suggesting that most airlines are working hard to accommodate customers. Still, nearly a third of the customer complaints for 2012 were for flight problems, such as unplanned schedule changes, delays and cancellations.
"When you look at the past 13 years, you find that the airline industry performs most efficiently when the system isn't stressed by high passenger volume and high number of airplanes in the air. Every time there are more planes in the sky and more people flying, airline performance suffers," said Headley.
The challenge is whether airline performance quality improvements can be maintained as more people choose to fly. Or does the infrastructure and air traffic control technology limit what the airlines can do?
"Further airline consolidation will continue to reduce the number of air carriers ranked in the AQR," said Brent Bowen, professor and head of the Department of Aviation Technology at Purdue University.
"Past AQR data suggests that the combining of two large air carrier operations often results in subsequent decreases in AQR rankings," said Bowen. "We will be carefully watching to see if two highly rated carriers, such as former No. 1 AirTran and Southwest will reverse this trend."
An electronic version of the full report, with details on each airline, is available at http://airlinequalityrating.com.
Inside this year's rating
1. Virgin America (new to the ranking this year)
The rankings changed most noticeably for American Eagle Airlines (from 15 up to 11) for 2012. Virgin America came into the rankings as the top rated airline. JetBlue (2) and AirTran (3) both maintained their top tier positions for 2012.
Eight airlines improved their on-time arrival performance in 2012. Nine of the 14 airlines rated had an on-time arrival percentage of better than 80 percent. On-time for the industry in 2012 was 81.8 percent compared to 80.0 percent in 2011.
Overall, five airlines improved their denied boardings rate in 2012. American Eagle recorded the greatest improvement, and SkyWest had the largest decline. JetBlue and Virgin American are clearly the industry leaders in avoiding denied boarding incidents.
Customer complaints per 100,000 passengers increased from 1.19 in 2011 to 1.43 in 2012. The majority of complaints were for flight problems (32.7 percent), reservations, ticketing and boarding (14.6 percent), customer service (14.3 percent) and baggage (12.4 percent).
More about the Airline Quality Rating
No other study in the country is based on performance measures like the AQR. Criteria included in the report are screened to meet two basic elements: They must be readily obtainable from published data sources for each airline, and they must be important to consumers regarding airline quality. The resulting criteria include areas such as baggage handling, customer complaints, denied boardings and on-time arrivals.
Reports from consumers to the AQR researchers have become increasingly popular during the past several years, say Bowen and Headley. The co-authors invite the flying public to participate in the Annual Passenger Survey at http://www.wichita.edu/aqrconsumersurvey.
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