Low-cost carrier AirTran had the best overall performance of the 16 largest U.S. carriers last year in an annual study of airline quality released Monday, knocking the previous leader — Hawaiian Airlines — into second place. • Regional air carrier American Eagle ranked last in the study, which is based on Department of Transportation data. • Overall, airlines improved their performance last year.
They lost fewer bags, bumpings due to overbooking were down and on-time arrivals were up. Eighty percent of domestic flights arrived on time last year, a slight increase from 2009. Over the past 20 years, on-time performance has ranged from a high of 82.5 percent in 1991 to a low of 72.6 percent in 2000. Last year's rate of 3.5 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers was the best in the two decades that the study has been produced. This rate peaked in 2007 at 7.01 mishandled bags. After that, many airlines began charging for checked baggage. That, in turn, has reduced the number of bags passengers are checking. AirTran had the best baggage handling rate, 1.6 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers; American Eagle had the worst, 7.15.
The ratings are based on statistics for airlines that carry at least 1 percent of passengers who flew domestically last year. The research is sponsored by Purdue University in Indiana and Wichita State University in Kansas.