United Airlines was named the worst domestic carrier and Virgin America the best in 2012, as overall industry quality stayed high even as customer complaints ticked up.
The annual Airline Quality Rating Report from researchers at Purdue University and Wichita State University, released Monday, found customers in 2012 giving the airline industry its second-highest quality rating in the survey's 23-year history, after 2011.
On every indicator in the survey (mishandled baggage, involuntary denied boarding, customer complaints and on-time arrival), United's ratings worsened from 2011 to 2012, in the context of a prolonged and painful merger with Continental Airlines.
Virgin America, conversely, reported outstanding numbers across all categories, with industry-best mishandled baggage rating and second-best involuntary denied boarding performance. It was also above average for its on-time arrival and customer complaints ratings.
To merit inclusion in the survey, airlines must have at least 1 percent of total domestic scheduled-service revenue for the year.
The full list of airlines, ranked best to worst. (Full survey breakdowns follow.)
1. Virgin America
9. US Airways
11. American Eagle