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. But travelers were still dissatisfied — complaints to the Transportation Department about airline performance went up a whopping 28 percent in 2010, the study said.
A precise cause for the spike in consumer disenchantment is hard to nail down, but it's most likely due to changes in the way airlines are doing business, said Dean Headley, co-author of the report.
The number of air travelers is increasing, but there are fewer flights and fewer seats available. So flights are more crowded, and it's tougher to rebook when a flight is canceled.
"They are trying to match supply and demand — the number of seats available to the number of people demanding seats — a lot closer so they don't fly empty seats, which is expensive for the airlines," said Headley, an associate professor of marketing at Wichita State University's W. Frank Barton School of Business.Page 1 of 4 | Next Page