Make us your home page
Instagram

Airline ratings up? Just get me where I'm going with my bags

It sure doesn't feel like it — wedged in the middle seat on a maxed-out flight, paying extra for baggage and begging for peanuts — but airlines are performing better than they have in more than two decades.

Just don't confuse "better performance" with "lower cost" or "more comfort."

Overall, airlines received better marks in the past year than they have at any time in the 22-year history of the Airline Quality Rating report.

Of the 15 carriers rated for performance in both 2010 and 2011, 10 airlines improved, four airlines declined, and one airline remained the same for 2011, according to the rankings issued Monday by joint university researchers at Purdue and Wichita State.

The industry improved in all four categories: on-time performance, baggage handling, involuntary denied boardings (getting bumped) and customer complaints. Ratings are based on data submitted to the Department of Transportation by the 15 airlines that carried the most passengers domestically last year.

The good news is that the top-rated airline by these measures is AirTran, which is now part of well-rated Southwest Airlines, the dominant carrier at Tampa International Airport. In fact, of the report's top 10 rated airlines, seven — AirTran, JetBlue, Frontier, Delta, Southwest, US Airways and American — operate flights in and out of TIA.

Frontier jumped the most, from ninth last year to fourth in this year's report. Some of the rated airlines, such as Continental, were recently acquired by others.

"Airlines are finally catching up with what their promise is, which is getting you there on time 80 percent of the time, with your bags," says Wichita State University business professor Dean Headley, who has co-written the annual report for 22 years.

• • •

The bad news is for every plus an airline can brag about, the same company may have shortcomings. JetBlue, for example, managed to rank No. 3 overall and was the airline least likely to bump you from a flight. But it ranked last for arriving on time just 73 percent of the time.

To its credit, Southwest once again logged the lowest rate of passenger complaints. But it was the first in the industry last week to raise (along with subsidiary AirTran) ticket prices $4 to $10 per round trip to offset the cost of rising jet fuel.

Airfare hikes vary based on whether the passenger flies between major airports, or travels to or from a small or medium-sized airport, Headley says. The cost of air travel in small and medium cities is increasing as airlines cut back service to smaller airports.

Low-cost carriers that fly mostly between large hubs tend to fare the best in the airline quality study, he says.

U.S. air travel surged to 770 million passengers in 2007 — just before the recession struck — when airline performance suffered a near meltdown.

Ratings fell that year in every category. What soared? Complaints, by 60 percent to 1.42 per 100,000 passengers.

Since then, airline performance has improved. The 2012 report shows passenger complaints are down 20 percent from that 2007 peak.

That won't make that middle seat much better. But it's something.

Contact Robert Trigaux at trigaux@tampabay.com.

. fast facts

Overall airline rankings, 2012 (2011)

1. AirTran (1)* (part of Southwest Airlines)

2. Hawaiian (2)

3. JetBlue (3)*

4. Frontier (9)*

5. Alaska (4)

6. Delta (7)*

7. Southwest (5)*

8. US Airways (6)*

9. SkyWest (10)

10. American (11)*

11. Continental (8)**

12. United (12)

13. Atlantic Southeast (15)***

14. Mesa (13)

15. American Eagle (16)

* Airlines that operate at Tampa International Airport

** Continental merged with United in 2010

*** Became ExpressJet in 2011

Source: Airline Quality Rating 2012, a joint university project of Wichita State and Purdue.

Who flies out of Tampa International?

On average, daily flight departures and arrivals for fiscal year 2012 number 208 apiece. Of that market share:

Southwest is the largest carrier, with 30.7 percent

Delta: 17.6 percent

United (including Continental): 11.2 percent

US Airways: 10.5 percent

American: 9.2 percent

AirTran (now part of Southwest): 8 percent

JetBlue: 6.6 percent

Spirit: 1.9 percent

Source: Tampa International Airport.

Airline ratings up? Just get me where I'm going with my bags 04/02/12 [Last modified: Monday, April 2, 2012 11:11pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  2. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]
  3. Pinellas licensing board loses support for staying independent

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER –– The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board on Monday lost its strongest supporter for staying independent.

    State Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican running for governor, said Monday that he will no longer support any legislation to keep the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board independent. This photo was taken in August. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  4. Triad Retail Media names Sherry Smith as CEO

    Corporate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Triad Retail Media, a St. Petersburg-based digital ads company, said CEO Roger Berdusco is "leaving the company to pursue new opportunities" and a member of the executive team, Sherry Smith, is taking over.

    Sherry Smith is taking over as CEO at Triad Retail Media, the company announced Monday. | [Courtesy of Triad Retail Media]
  5. Two new condo projects for same street in downtown St. Pete

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — It lacks the panache and name recognition of Beach Drive, but 4th Avenue N in downtown St. Petersburg is becoming a condo row in its own right.

    Bezu, a condo project planned at 100 4th Ave. N in downtown St. Petersburg, will have 24 units including a three-level penthouse with infinity pool.
[Courtesy of Clear ph Design]