From less legroom to inedible plane food, almost everything about the flying experience feels like it’s getting worse. Turns out, it’s not just your imagination -- a new study shows that, while carriers are making more money than ever, the service they provide is reaching new levels of suckiness.
The report, compiled by researchers at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Wichita State University, rated the 12 largest domestic airlines based on US Department of Transportation data for the number of on-time flights, lost bags, passenger complaints, and travelers bumped from flights last year.
Overall, airlines lost 13% more bags, bumped 3% more travelers from flights, and received 22% more customer complaints in 2014, while just 76.2% flights were actually on time (down from 78.4% in 2013).
But which was the absolute worst US carrier? That's Envoy Air, which operates American Eagle, and got an Airline Quality Rating (AQR) of -2.83, more than double the average score of -1.24, and was named the poorest service for on-time flights and lost luggage, misplacing one bag per 110 flyers. On average one bag is lost per 275 flyers.
Next worst, ExpressJet scored an AQR of -2.12 and sucked most at overbooking flights and turning away passengers at the gate. Which is a great way to turn any normal person into Yosemite Sam in about a millisecond. SkyWest, which tied with ExpressJet for bumping the most passengers from flights, landed third worst, with a -1.84 AQR.
As for the airlines providing the best service, Virgin America flew to the top of the list for the third year in a row, awarded an AQR of -0.30, and credited with actually taking care of passengers' bags and for not bumping folks from its flights. Hawaiian Airlines, which operated the most on-time flights last year, took second, while Delta Air Lines grabbed third place. But only Virgin, Hawaiian, and Alaska Airlines -- which made it to no. 5 with the fewest customer complaints -- actually improved on their service from the previous year.
Now here are the results, along with each airline's AQR -- try not to swear off flying (or at the airlines) when you read them.
12. Envoy/American Eagle: -2.83
11. ExpressJet: -2.83
10. SkyWest: -2.12
9. United: -1.84
8. Frontier: -1.48
7. American: -1.35
6. Southwest: -1.22
5. Alaska: -0.65
4. JetBlue: -0.61
3. Delta: -0.60
2. Hawaiian: -0.53
1. Virgin America: -0.30