WSU Newsline: Airline performance hits record low; AirTran is No. 1 for 2007
Friday, April 4, 2008 2:01 PM

The scripts are available for printing and for sound bite identification.

Go to http://www.wichita.edu/newsline to get the current Wichita State University Newsline. If you cannot access the Newsline at the Web address above, contact Joe Kleinsasser at (316) 978-3013 or joe.kleinsasser@wichita.edu. Newsline cuts may be edited to suit your needs.

If you have additional questions for Dean Headley after listening to the WSU Newsline, contact him on Monday, April 7, or Tuesday morning, April 8, at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel at (202) 628-9100. Starting Wednesday, April 9, you can reach Headley at (316) 978-3367 or dean.headley@wichita.edu.


According to the 18th annual national Airline Quality Rating, AirTran Airways is the best-performing airline. As far as an overall rating for the airline industry, 2007 produced the worst AQR score ever. Twelve of the 16 airlines rated performed more poorly in 2007 than 2006.

The rating is conducted annually by researchers Dean Headley of Wichita State University and Brent Bowen of the University of Nebraska at Omaha. According to the Airline Quality Rating, AirTran was first followed by Jet Blue, Southwest, Northwest and Frontier in the top five; Continental, Alaska, United, American and Delta in the second five, with US Airways at No. 11; and Mesa, SkyWest, Comair, American Eagle and Atlantic Southeast at No. 12-16.

The AQR, as an industry standard, uses objective performance-based data to compare quality among airlines. The AQR measures performance in baggage handling, on-time arrivals, denied boardings and customer complaints. Comments on today's Newsline are by Wichita State airline quality researcher Dean Headley.

Voice wrap:

Announcer: According to the 18th annual Airline Quality Rating, AirTran topped Jet Blue for the No. 1 spot for 2007. The study ranked the 16 largest U.S. airlines in on-time arrivals, baggage handling, denied boardings and customer complaints. Dean Headley, co-author of the national Airline Quality Rating at Wichita State University, says the airline industry produced the worst AQR score ever last year.

Headley: "The 16 airlines that we looked at combined into an industry figure that gives us all four areas of performance being worse this year for the industry. Now some airlines increased here and there on some of the factors, but none of the airlines got better on all four criteria."

Announcer: Headley doesn't expect airline performance to improve anytime soon. He says the airlines are losing money, and fuel prices are high. They're cutting

back on services and people. Everything it takes to run an airline is more expensive, and the airlines want less of that expense. This is Joe Kleinsasser at Wichita State University.

Sound bite #1

Headley says the Airline Quality Rating scores were the worst ever in 2007. The sound bite is 13 seconds and the outcue is "by far the worst."

Headley: "For 2007 we saw the worst year ever in the 17 or 18 years we've been doing this thing. The worst year prior to that was 2000, and the two years have similar economic patterns going on, but 2007 was by far the worst."

Sound bite #2

Headley says there are similarities between 2000 and 2007. The sound bite is 21 seconds and the outcue is "playing itself out."

Headley: "In 2000, when you look at that in comparison to 2007, we were just about to go into a recession. We'd had a good financial time for the industry. Airplanes were flying full. Everybody was able to get service that they wanted. 2000 and 2007 look and sound a lot like each other in the way the environment around the airline industry is playing itself out."

Sound bite #3

Headley looks at the good news in this year's Airline Quality Rating. The sound bite is 23 seconds and the outcue is "of any airline."

Headley: "The good news for this year is that four out of the 16 airlines actually improved their score. One of those is AirTran, and it stayed pretty much at the top of the pack. The other three that improved were in the, what I call fulfillment carrier category, and at the bottom part of the bottom third of the pack. Although I would have to say that Mesa probably had the most improvement across three out of the four categories of any airline."

Sound bite #4

Headley says the best-performing airlines in the AQR are low-fare carriers. The sound bite is 24 seconds and the outcue is "like that."

Headley: "Well, if you look at the ratings, the top third of the rankings — are all but one — are low-fare carriers, and Northwest is that exception. The middle of the pack is almost always the legacy-type carriers, Delta, Continental, those types of carriers. The bottom third are what I call the fulfillment, the Comair, SkyWest, Mesas, Atlantic Southeast, like that."

Sound bite #5

Headley explains why AirTran earned the top score. The sound bite is 20 seconds and the outcue is "declining industry situation."

Headley: "AirTran stayed near the top and actually took the top position this year because their baggage handling was excellent compared to the industry. They only mishandled about four bags per thousand. The industry was at seven. They also improved on their on-time rate, so you put that together with a couple not-so-great declines in the other areas, and it kept them at the top in a declining industry situation."

Sound bite #6

Headley looks at the Passenger Bill of Rights issue. The sound bite is 17 seconds and the outcue is "ready for that."

Headley: "Passenger Bill of Rights is an argument for reregulation, particularly at the federal level. It doesn't really work at the state level. But if you want a Passenger Bill of Rights, it is a reregulation of what's been tried to be made a free market circumstance, and I'm not sure that we're ready for that."

Sound bite #7

Headley explains the impact of the open skies agreement. The sound bite is 20 seconds and the outcue is "and lower prices."

Headley: "You know the open skies is kind of the new kid on the block. It's going to open up all kinds of competition between here and Europe. We haven't had that before. We're going to have planes flying from Europe to various locations in the United States, and American planes flying over there. So, we don't know what it is, but two things are certain, it's more competition and lower prices."

Sound bite #8

Headley says he doesn't expect airline quality to improve anytime soon. The sound bite is 22 seconds and the outcue is "for improving performance."

Headley: "Getting better in the airline quality scores probably won't happen for the next year or two or foreseeable future. There's no incentive. The airlines are losing money. Fuel prices are high. They're cutting back on services. They're cutting back on people. Everything it takes to run an airline is becoming more expensive, and they want less of that expense. It's just not a good circumstance for improving performance."

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Contact: Contact: Contact: Joe Kleinsasser, WSU director of news and media relations, (316) 204-8266 (cell) or joe.kleinsasser@wichita.edu; Lainie Rusco, WSU news and media relations, (316) 617-3172 (cell); or Tim Kaldahl, UNO director of university relations, (402) 554-3502 or (402) 672-0828 (cell) or tkaldahl@mail.unomaha.edu.
Created on Apr 4, 2008 2:01 PM; Last modified on Apr 4, 2009 10:15 AM