Upcoming Airline Quality Rating to Reveal Best U.S. Carriers

Only a year ago, airlines grabbed headlines when cell-phone video captured passengers fighting and being dragged off flights. And just in the past month, news of airlines fatally mishandling or transporting pets has airline passengers asking – do these incidents accurately portray what travelers experience when boarding a commercial flight?

Answers to this question and other key issues today’s flying public are most concerned about will be revealed this month as part of The Airline Quality Rating (AQR), the longest running, most comprehensive study of the performance quality of the 12 largest airlines in the United States for 2017.

Full results of the 28th annual AQR, which is conducted by researchers Dr. Dean Headley at the W. Frank Barton School of Business at Wichita State University and Dr. Brent Bowen of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Prescott, Arizona, campus, will be announced at 9:30 a.m. EDT Monday, April 9, at a news conference at the National Press Club, Zenger Room, in Washington. D.C.

Key findings so far show that three of the four AQR factors tracked – involuntary denied boardings, mishandled bags and customer complaints – improved for the airline industry in 2017. On-time performance, the most heavily weighted element in the AQR, slipped in 2017.

“Some good news emerging from this most recent AQR is that airlines continue to pay attention to customer concerns and are improving performance in areas that consumers care about,” said Dr. Headley, who in addition to co-founding the AQR is an associate professor of marketing research at Wichita State. “There is improvement in key factors that is noticeable by consumers and that directly impacts the quality of the traveling public’s experience with airlines.”

This year’s report also reveals the lowest rate of bumped passengers for the industry and the lowest rate of mishandled baggage for the industry since the AQR started in 1991.

The new AQR findings cover the 2017 calendar year and rate the following airlines, listed in alphabetical order: Alaska, American, Delta, ExpressJet, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, SkyWest, Southwest, Spirit, United and Virgin America.  In 2017, Virgin America and Alaska worked toward a merger of the airlines that was realized in early 2018.

“Despite what we’re all seeing in the news lately – in particular about mishandled baggage with pets  – overall, the report shows airlines are taking steps to acknowledge and address problems,” said Dr. Bowen, who also is a professor of aeronautical science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Prescott, Ariz., campus. “While there will always be incidents, hopefully this trend of immediately responding and resolving – as well as the lessons learned from these situations – will continue on this upward trajectory.”

 As the longest running and most established measure of airline quality, researchers use a combination of performance-based data that allows comparison of actual performance among airlines most used by the public.

To see last year’s results, go to airlinequalityrating.com.

MEDIA INFORMATION: This year’s announcement will be streamed live via Facebook (more information and link to come). Audio and video setups will be available via the National Press Club. Advance interviews with researchers Dr. Dean Headley and Dr. Brent Bowen are available upon request. Full results of the new AQR will be distributed and posted online immediately as the press conference starts at airlinequalityrating.com.

About Wichita State University
The mission of Wichita State University (www.wichita.edu) is to be an essential educational, cultural and economic driver for Kansas and the greater public good. Wichita State is a doctoral research university enrolling about 15,000 students and offering 59 undergraduate degree programs in more than 150 areas of study in seven undergraduate colleges. The Graduate School offers 45 master's and 12 doctoral degrees that offer study in more than 100 areas. Wichita State's Innovation Campus (www.wsuinnovationcampus.org) is an interconnected community of partnership buildings, laboratories and mixed-use areas where students, faculty, staff, entrepreneurs and businesses have access to the university's vast resources and technology. For more information, follow us on Twitter (www.twitter.com/wichitastate) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/wichita.state).