WSU Newsline: Airline performance improves; Hawaiian is new No. 1 in 2009 AQR
Monday, April 6, 2009 8:32 AM

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

According to the 19th annual national Airline Quality Rating, Hawaiian is the best-performing airline. In a marked change from recent years, all 17 airlines improved their performance in 2008.

The rating is conducted annually by researchers Dean Headley of Wichita State University and Brent Bowen of Saint Louis University.

According to the 2009 Airline Quality Rating, Hawaiian was first, followed by AirTran, JetBlue, Northwest and Alaska; the second five were Southwest, Frontier, Continental, American, US Airways; and No. 11 was United, followed by Delta, SkyWest, Mesa, Comair, American Eagle and Atlantic Southeast.

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 19th annual Airline Quality Rating, Hawaiian topped Air Tran for the No. 1 spot for 2008. The study ranked the 17 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 improvement in baggage handling was particularly noteworthy last year.

Headley: "Of the four things we look at, the one that got better the most was baggage handling, and it improved by like 25 percent, which is wonderful. And it probably needed to, given the fact that people are now paying for baggage; they would have had a real problem had they lost the same number of bags and then charging people for that privilege. It would have been a disaster."

Announcer: Headley said all of the airlines improved their performance in 2008, which is probably a good thing, given that the industry collectively had its worst score ever in the 19-year history of the Airline Quality Rating in 2007. This is Joe Kleinsasser at Wichita State University.

Sound bite #1
Headley looks at the overall performance by the airline industry for 2008. The sound bite is 13 seconds and the outcue is "for 2008."

Headley: "The domestic airline industry in 2008 generally got better, which is a good thing with all the other news we've got, but all the airlines did improve their airline quality scores for 2008."

Sound bite #2
Headley says airlines improved performance in all areas — on-time arrivals, baggage handling, denied boardings and customer complaints. The sound bite is 18 seconds and the outcue is "needed to get better."

Headley: "Looking at the four elements that we look at ¬— on-time performance, baggage handling, customer complaints and denied boardings — all four of those got better as an industry this year. It's the first time I think that's happened in a long time, if ever, and it's a good thing. They needed to get better."

Sound bite #3
Headley looks at two factors that contributed to improved airline performance. The sound bite is 32 seconds and the outcue is "leisure travelers."

Headley: "The improvement seems to have at least two elements to it — number one, the lower capacity that's currently in the system. We didn't experience that prior to this. It was just after 2001, the 9/11 attacks, and 2002, when the capacity was this low again. So capacity reductions are part of the reason it works better, simpler system. And the fact that the airlines are, with that reduced capacity, seeing fewer people; also the economy scared away business travelers, scared away leisure travelers."

Sound bite #4
Headley says with fewer people flying, the industry has another window of opportunity to improve the infrastructure. The sound bite is 28 seconds and the outcue is "lower capacity problem."

Headley: "In 2002, we saw a lower capacity as a result of the 9/11 attacks. That was our previous time when capacity was at a low ebb. We're seeing that again. We need to be able to fix the infrastructure. We know it works better when it's simpler and less demanded, so we need to take the opportunity to fix air traffic control, let's say, while we have a lower capacity problem."

Sound bite #5
Headley explains what the airline rankings mean to the flying public. The sound bite is 20 seconds and the outcue is "and less hassle."

Headley: "In 2007 we had the worst year ever and we've been doing this for 19 years. So, they had to get better. The flying public wasn't going to tolerate anything other than that. So, it's good that they got better, and I think the public can be happy of the fact that they're not going to lose as many bags and they're going to get there more on time and less hassle."

Sound bite #6
Headley says the flying public can expect competitive prices but fewer available seats this year. The sound bite is 21 seconds and the outcue is "to find a seat."

Headley: "I think the traveling public will find out there that there's still a lot of good prices, good competitive prices to get from point A to point B. The one glitch to this all is, with the capacity reductions, there's fewer seats. While you might get a good price, you have to be careful about the fact that there's not as many seats flying as there were a year ago, and it's harder to find a seat."

Sound bite #7
Headley says the low-fare carriers were generally the best performing airlines in 2008. The sound bite is 37 seconds and the outcue is "flying public."

Headley: "When you kind of draw back and look at the whole Airline Quality Rating, the low-fare carriers tend to be in the top third or so of the ratings. The legacy carriers tend to take up the middle ground, and what I call fulfillment carriers, the old regional airlines, tend to take up the bottom tier of this.

"The most improved airline this particular time was US Air. It didn't help its ranking that much, but it did help. The least improved was United, and there were several airlines that made good strides in various areas, but the overall picture is a positive picture, and I think that's good for the flying public."

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Contact: Joe Kleinsasser, Wichita State University, (316) 204-8266 (cell), or Lainie Rusco, Wichita State University, by phone: (316) 978-3409 or lainie.rusco@wichita.edu.
Created on Apr 6, 2009 8:32 AM; Last modified on Apr 6, 2009 8:35 AM