Delta Air Lines has topped yet another airline ranking, this time the 29th annual Airline Quality Rating, which was released Monday.
The Airline Quality Rating (AQR) is the most comprehensive study of performance and quality of the largest airlines in the United States. The rating is an examination of mishandled baggage, consumer complaints, on-time performance and involuntary denied boardings and is a joint research project of the W. Frank Barton School of Business and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
The rankings (and each airline’s ranking in last year’s study) were:
- Delta (2)
- JetBlue (3)
- Southwest (5)
- Alaska (1)
- Hawaiian (4)
- United (8)
- Spirit (12)
- American (9)
- Frontier (11)
The AQR score for 2018 shows an industry that improved in overall performance quality over the previous year. Six airlines (Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, and United) showed improvement in their AQR scores in 2018, with Spirit Airlines posting the largest improvement. Three airlines (Alaska, American, and Frontier) all had a decline in their 2018 AQR score from the previous year, with Frontier Airlines posting the largest decline. The overall industry AQR score improved for 2018 and is the best AQR score in the 29-year history of the rating. The industry AQR score has improved each year for the past four years (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018). Improved performance was seen in three of the four areas tracked.
Delta was No. 2 in last year’s AQR ranking, behind Alaska Airlines. But this year, Alaska fell to No. 4. The study notes that since the merger of Alaska and Virgin America was completed in April 2018, results for Alaska in the 2019 ranking reflect the performance of the merged airlines for the entire year.
In other 2019 airline rankings, Delta was also rated the top airline in the U.S. in The Point’s Guy’s third annual list; Frontier was rated the worst on both lists. TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice awards for Airlines, which ranks airlines worldwide, had Singapore Airlines on top. Southwest Airlines was the only U.S.-based airline to make that list, coming in at No. 6
The AQR study does more than just rank airlines; it also tracks overall trends within the airline industry. The study notes that three of the four AQR data points tracked – involuntary denied boardings, mishandled bags and customer complaints – improved for the industry as a whole in 2018. But on-time performance, the most heavily weighted element in the study, slipped.
“These results are very needed by the traveling public, given all the recent reports of airlines losing the confidence of key consumers,” said Brent Bowen in a news release. Bowen is the AQR co-author and a professor of aeronautical science at Embry-Riddle’s Prescott campus. “Travelers can be confident that our airlines are improving.”
This year’s AQR report also showed the lowest rate of bumped passengers, the lowest rate of mishandled baggage and the lowest rate of customer complaints for the industry since the study began in 1991.
Keep in mind this is 2018 data, which doesn’t reflect issues airlines and passengers have encountered this year related to the March 13 grounding of the Boeing 737 Max 8.