Top U.S. airline data for 2015 was evaluated for the 26th annual Airline Quality Rating report, and it was determined that Virgin American made the number one spot for the fourth consecutive year.
UPI reports that Virgin America is the top U.S. airline for a host of reasons. The report was released on Monday.
Virgin America came in as the top U.S. airline with a slightly lower score than 2014 but ranked the highest in quality overall. The airline was followed by JetBlue and Delta Air Lines.
Researchers at Wichita State University’s business school and the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University College of Aviation in Arizona research the multiple services that airlines offer consumers and rank them each year. According to the report, the results emerged the same day Alaska Airlines purchased Virgin America for $2.6 billion.
Virgin America, JetBlue, Delta top annual rankings of U.S. airlines; Here’s the rest of the list: https://t.co/caIl6Jl8TZ
— The Associated Press (@AP) April 4, 2016
Airlines that made the list improved in different categories, but customer complaints increased by 38 percent.
“This is the worst complaints have been for 15 years, as a rate,” said report co-author Dean Headley of Wichita State University. “The last time it got this high was in 2001.”
It was found in the data that higher profits for the airlines weren’t passed on to consumers.
“Some food here and there and maybe a new airplane, but as an industry, it’s not overly noticeable,” Headley said.
The top U.S. airlines were evaluated on many variables that included on-time performance, mishandled bags, involuntary denied boardings, and customer complaints. These complaints ultimately brought down scores.
The worst performing airline on the list was Spirit; it was last for on-time performance and had the highest rate of customer complaints.
— CNBC (@CNBC) April 5, 2016
The Top U.S. airlines are listed below.
1. Virgin America. The airline has been at No. 1 since 2012.
2. JetBlue. This year, the airline went way up the list. It was at No. 4 last year.
3. Delta. In 2014, Delta held this spot as well.
4. Hawaiian. The airline went down a few notches in 2015. In 2014, it was at No. 2.
5. Alaska. Same ranking as last year.
6. Southwest. Again, it had the same ranking as last year.
7. SkyWest. This airline went up three after being at No. 10 in 2014.
8. United. In 2014, United was at No. 9, moving up one spot.
9. ExpressJet. The airline moved up two spots after being at No. 11 in 2014.
10. American. Falling 3 from No. 7 in 2014. The airline finalized its merger with U.S. Airways in 2015.
11. Frontier. Another airline that suffered in 2015 versus 2014 when it was at No. 8.
12. Envoy Air. Same as last year.
13. Spirit. New rating in 2015.
Cleveland.com offered an in-depth look at some of the reasons behind why certain airlines fell on the scale this year from 2014. Brent Bowen, the dean of the College of Aviation at Embry-Riddle and one of the study’s authors, explained why he thought United Airlines finished eighth in the ranking behind regional carrier SkyWest Airlines.
“If I were United, I would be humiliated to be beat out by a regional carrier,” said Bowen.
Bowen blamed instability as the main reason for United’s low score on the list of top U.S. airlines even though it’s up one spot from last year. The airline’s former CEO, Jeff Smisek, resigned last fall, and the current CEO, Oscar Munoz, recently returned to work after a several-month absence following a heart attack.
“What matters to consumers is what happens during their flight experience,” said Bowen. “And if management is not leading properly, that will impact that flight experience substantially.”
Bowen surmises that Spirit’s extremely low-cost business model is still relatively new to U.S. passengers.
[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]