Report: U.S. Airlines Receive Better Grades

U.S. airlines, show government figures, are improving at arrival time, baggage handling and not bumping so many of their passengers.

A new report shows that airlines are becoming better at keeping their schedules and losing fewer bags. It seems passengers are complaining less.

Those were the findings in an annual report that details airline quality to be released Monday by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Wichita State University researchers.

Researchers used information compiled by the Department of Transportation in rating airlines for their on-time arrivals, handling of baggage, bumping passengers from flights oversold and the complaints filed with a government agency.

During the day Monday, researches will release the list they have compiled of the best airlines.

The percentages of overall flights arriving on time or close to on time increased from 79.9% in 2015 to 81.4% in 2016. Of the 12 leading air carriers in the U.S. just American, Virgin American and JetBlue saw their numbers get worse.

The overall rate of baggage lost, delayed or stolen dropped 17%.

Chances of being bumped off your flight fell 18%, which does not take into consideration those who voluntarily bump themselves in exchange for a travel voucher or money.

The number of complaints filed at government agencies fell by one fifth with complaints increasing for only Virgin American and Hawaiian.

The official rates for complaints do not include the complaints most often made by passengers that are filed with their airline. Airlines do not have to report those complaint figures.

However, it is clear airlines continue to have problems with how they are perceived. It is not difficult to find passengers that complain about miserable flights, missed connections, poor treatment from airline employees and other reasons. Comments such as those are found often on Twitter.

Researchers for this report have supplied the report for over 25 years, making it a useful tool to compare airlines.

However, some observers in the industry dismiss the number crunching taking by researchers and many surveys are conducted by others that claim to rank airlines.

The Department of Transportation counts an “on time” flight one that arrives a long as 14 minutes later than scheduled. Airlines have become happy with the grace period they are given since it helps to make them look more responsible with their arrivals, but it misleads passengers, said one aviation consultant. He added that airlines could do much better.

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