The low-priced carrier was the most improved USA airline in 2016, according to the 27th Airline Quality Rating study, which ranks the 12 largest air carriers based upon on-time performance, involuntary denied boardings, mishandled bags and customer complaints. The mishandled-baggage rate dropped from 3.24 per 1,000 passengers in 2015 to 2.7 per 1,000 passengers in 2016.
NOTE: The 2015 rating included 13 airlines.
- FEWER COMPLAINTS: The rate of complaints filed with the government dropped about one-fifth, with complaints rising only for Hawaiian and Virgin America. On Friday, the personal finance website WalletHub ranked Alaska the best airline of 13 USA -based carriers.
Frontier Airlines came in last in the rankings at the number 12 spot, with Spirit Airlines scoring second to last at number 11.
There is a good improvement by the airline companies on all these parameters.
"The airlines as a whole have done better in the four major categories and because they're doing slightly better it has taken the score up to its highest position over time", said Brent Bowen, dean of the College of Aviation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Spirit had the largest improvement in their score for 2016.
On time performance has improved from 79.9 per cent in 2015 to 81.4 per cent in 2016.
"It will be interesting to see how the Virgin America-Alaska merger will pan out moving forward", Bowen said. He said airlines can do better, and besides, travelers pay to be on time - not 14 minutes late.
Not only does the report hold airlines to the fire but it can help consumers make more informed decisions when planning their next trip. According to TripAdvisor reviews, Alaska scored highest on cleanliness, customer service, and its boarding and check-in process. The ultra-low-cost carrier improved in all four key metrics, including a leap in its on-time rate from 69% to 74.3% percent.
In 2016, nine of the 12 airlines saw improvements in three of the four performance metrics, while seven got better overall in all four areas as did the airline industry overall, Headley noted.
The number of passengers who were denied boarding fell from 0.76 per 10,000 passengers in 2015 to 0.62 per 10,000 passengers a year ago. JetBlue suffered the biggest decline, due in large part to a substantial increase in its percentage of involuntary denied boardings.
Virgin America had the best baggage handling rate (1.03 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers) of all airlines, and ExpressJet had the worst baggage handling rate (4.31 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers).