news releases

2006.04.03 > For Immediate Release
contact: Tim Kaldahl - University Affairs
phone: 402.554.3502 - email: tkaldahl@mail.unomaha.edu

Airline Performance Declines; Jet Blue Still No. 1 in AQR

Omaha - For the third consecutive year, Jet Blue was the best performing airline according to the 16th annual national Airline Quality Rating (AQR) study. However, 15 of the 16 airlines in the study, including Jet Blue, performed more poorly in 2005 than 2004.

Seventeen airlines were studied in 2005, as Independence Air joined the rankings for the first time.

The best performing airlines continue to be low-fare carriers. The study, ranking the 17 largest U.S. airlines, was announced today (April 3) at a news conference in Washington, D.C. Following Jet Blue in the top five of the AQR were AirTran, Independence Air, Southwest and United.

The overall airline industry performed more poorly in 2005, due largely to a significant increase in mishandled bags. Customer complaints in the airline industry were 17 percent higher in 2005 than 2004.

The AQR is a summary of month-by-month quality ratings for the largest domestic U.S. airlines operating during 2005. Co-researchers Brent Bowen, director and professor, University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) Aviation Institute/School of Public Administration, and Dean Headley, associate professor of marketing at Wichita State University (WSU), used 15 elements important to consumers when judging the quality of airline service.

The rating is conducted annually by the UNO Aviation Institute and W. Frank Barton School of Business at WSU. The AQR, as an industry standard, provides consumers and industry watchers a means to compare quality among airlines using objective performance-based data. It is a cooperative research project funded as part of faculty research activities at UNO and WSU.

The AQR ranked the 17 largest airlines for 2005 as follows:

1) Jet Blue;

2) AirTran;

3) Independence Air;

4) Southwest;

5) United;

6) America West;

7) Northwest;

8) Continental;

9) Alaska;

10) American;

11) ATA;

12) Delta;

13) SkyWest;

14) American Eagle;

15) US Airways;

16) Comair; and

17) Atlantic Southeast.

"At a time when the airlines got worse, they all kind of got worse at the same rate," said Headley. "For the most part, the airlines maintained their position in the rating. Only two airlines changed noticeably in the rating; Alaska dropped from No. 5 to 9, and US Air dropped from No. 12 to 15.

"Every airline performed more poorly in baggage handling," he said. "The big question is, why."

Bowen said that the entire industry must be concerned that this year's AQR score is the lowest in five years. "If we continue down this path, consumers will lose all confidence in the airlines' capability to perform," said Bowen.

Criteria included in the AQR are screened to meet two basic elements: They must be readily obtainable from published data sources for each airline, and they must be important to consumers regarding airline quality. The resulting criteria include areas such as baggage handling, customer complaints, denied boardings and on-time arrivals.

Other major industry findings in this year's research study include:

• Industry performance in each of the four AQR criteria was worse in 2005 compared to 2004. The criteria are on-time performance, denied boardings, mishandled baggage and consumer complaints.

• Only five of 17 airlines had an on-time percentage of more than 80 percent.

• SkyWest had the best on-time performance for 2005; Jet Blue had the lowest denied boarding rate; AirTran had the best baggage handling rate; and Southwest Airlines had the lowest consumer complaint rate.

• The only airline to show improvement in its AQR score in 2005 was Comair, although the airline finished second-to-last in the overall rating.

• Seven airlines improved their on-time arrival performance in 2005.

• The customer complaint rate was higher for 14 of the 16 airlines rated in 2004 and 2005.

Media Notes:

Headley will be available for interviews by telephone at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel in Washington, D.C., following the news conference. Call 202.393.2000 today (Monday, April 3) and ask for the room of Dean Headley, or 316.978.3367 after April 4. To reach Bowen, call 402.554.3424.

Joe Kleinsasser and Tim Kaldahl can assist in scheduling interviews. Kleinsasser will be available Monday, April 3, on his cell phone at 316.204.8266 or the Willard Intercontinental Hotel at 202.393.2000. Kaldahl can be reached by cell phone at 402.672.0828.

To reach WSU on Monday, April 3, or Tuesday, April 4, call Amy Geiszler-Jones at 316.978.3409. To reach UNO April 3-4, call UNO University Affairs at 402.554.2358.

Taped comments by Dean Headley are available via the WSU Radio Newsline at 316.978.3682 or http://www.wichita.edu/newsline now through Sunday, April 9. Taped comments by Brent Bowen are available on the UNO Radio News Line at http://www.unomaha.edu/news/radionewsline/.

An online version of the full report's narrative, news release and commentary is available at http://www.aqr.aero. Hard copies of the 2005 AQR report may be ordered by calling the WSU department of marketing and entrepreneurship at 316.978.3367.

A CD with the history of the AQR is available on request. Call 402.554.3424 or 316.978.3367.

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