Annual airline ratings: Virgin America tops in U.S.

By Shawn Price

WICHITA, Kan., April 5 (UPI) -- Virgin America is the top U.S. airline for the fourth consecutive year in the 26th annual national Airline Quality Rating report, released Monday.

Despite a slightly lower score than in 2014, Virgin America was still the highest in quality overall, followed by JetBlue and Delta Air Lines. The report is compiled by researchers at Wichita State University's business school and the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University College of Aviation in Arizona.


The report arrived the same day Alaska Airlines purchased Virgin America for $2.6 billion.

Overall, the airlines improved in multiple categories, but customer complaints still jumped 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."

Despite increased profits for the airlines, researchers found those profits were not really passed on to the customer.

"Some food here and there and maybe a new airplane, but as an industry, it's not overly noticeable," Headley said.

The report examined on-time performance, mishandled bags, involuntary denied boardings and customer complaints, and it was complaints that dragged down most scores.


The worst on the list was Spirit, which came in last in on-time performance and had the highest rate of customer complaints.

Overall airline ranking, with 2014 rankings in parentheses

1. Virgin America (1) 2. JetBlue (4) 3. Delta (3) 4. Hawaiian (2) 5. Alaska (5) 6. Southwest (6) 7. SkyWest (10) 8. United (9) 9. ExpressJet (11) 10. American (7) 11. Frontier (8) 12. Envoy Air (12) 13. Spirit (new to rating in 2015)

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