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Research report fingers the worst U.S. airlines

Consumer Reports News: April 12, 2011 03:23 PM

Air travelers all have and use their own horror stories to determine which airline is the worst one around. But which U.S. carrier is statistically the worst company flying? American Eagle.

For their latest Airline Quality Ratings, researchers at Wichita State University and Purdue University graded American Eagle, United Airlines and 14 other U.S.-based carriers based on four statistics: on-time performance, denied boardings, lost luggage and customer complaints.

For the second year in a row, American Eagle scored at the bottom of the barrel. It had a mishandled luggage rate of about 7 bags per thousand--more than double the national average. Customer complaints with the carrier also nearly doubled in 2010.

In case you're not familiar with the name, American Eagle is the regional arm (and a wholly owned subsidiary of) American Airlines. It also has codesharing agreements with several other airlines, so good luck trying to avoid it.

United was judged to be the worst of the major airlines studied. It still had the second-highest number of customer complaints, despite showing improvements in other areas such as on-time arrivals.

Other findings:

  • Comair, the regional carrier for Delta, was the slowest airline. Only 73 percent of its flights were on-time.
  • Delta scored the most number of passenger complaints--two out of 100,000 Delta passengers had a beef with the airline at some point last year.
  • Southwest Airlines had best (lowest) customer complaint record--a mere 0.27 complaints per 100,000 passengers.

The researchers note that the airline industry overall, has seen a rise in frustrated flyers in 2010--1.22 complaints per 100,000 passenger versus 0.97 per 100,000 in 2009.

What are your experiences? Are there particular airlines you go out of your way to avoid—or prefer to fly?

Sky-High Rage: The Meanest Airlines in America [Time]
Airline Quality Ratings 2011 [Wichita State Univ.]

Paul Eng

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