REPORT: Airlines Receive Highest Overall Quality Score Since 1991

By Joe Gullo

Published 04/09 2014 10:36AM

Updated 04/09 2014 10:38AM

Are you booking a flight soon? Well, here's the good news, research says airlines are at their best right now! The bad news, you might not agree with that research.

Long lines, delays, lost baggage. If you've flown recently, chances are that it hasn't been a breeze and that's what makes frequent fliers ask -- how is this possible?

The Airline Quality Rating Report for 2013 has, in essence, given the airlines a gold star.

In their latest report just released this week, the group gave the airlines their highest overall quality score since 1991, when the report started, and a better record than either of the last two years.

The airlines were judged in four categories; being on-time, the number of involuntary denied boardings -- also known as being "bumped" from a flight, mishandled baggage, and customer complaints.

First, the good news.

The study found that the airlines showed improvement in the number of denied boardings and in handling customer complaints. And the top airlines in those categories?

Jet Blue and Virgin America were rated best at not "bumping" customers from their flights and southwest airlines had the fewest customer complaints in 2013.

Now for the bad news, for both, you and for the airlines.

First, when it came to on-time performance in 2013, the average number of on-time arrivals dropped from 81% in 2012 to 78% of the time last year. Only two airlines American and United had better on-time records in 2013 than they did in 2012.

If you really want to arrive on schedule, you'll have to fly Hawaiian Airlines. Flights arrived 93.3% on-time last year, only a very minor decrease from its 93.4% rating in 2012.

Second, more bags were mishandled last year too. Across all airlines, the number of mishandled bags increased from 3.07 bags per one-thousand passengers in 2012, to 3.21 bags per thousand fliers last year.

Researchers agreed the results of fewer involuntary denied boardings and a lower number of customer complaints along with a lower on-time record and more mishandled bags was a mixed bag of gains and losses. Researchers says the improvements are a positive sign for the industry.

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