The Best Airlines in the United States
Hawaiian is the highest-quality airline in
As I've noted in previous analyses of AQR scores, to most of you, "quality" has two distinct components:
-- How good the product is, as promised, and
-- How well the supplier delivers on what was promised.
AQR measures only the delivery component of quality. Its scores are a composite of objective delivery measures: on-time performance, how many travelers were denied boarding ("bumped"), how many bags the line mishandled, and how many complaints were logged by the DOT's consumer program, all adjusted to a consistent per-passenger index.
Hawaiian topped all lines in delivery quality -- not surprising in view of the fact that most of its flights are high-frequency short interisland hops where bad weather seldom disrupts operations for long and few travelers need to connect between flights.
In general, the large trunk airlines scored better than the regionals, and the smaller of the trunk lines did better than the giants. Because of the way the AQR formula works, all scores are negative numbers (I omit the minus signs; the lower the score number the better), with overall trunk line scores ranging from 0.40 to 1.73. In individual scores, Hawaiian at 0.40,
Current AQR scores are a reasonably good predictor of future performance. Although the order of scores changed somewhat from 2008 figures, both winners and losers tend to be fairly consistent from year to year.
Among the individual trunk line performance measures:
-- On-time arrival: Hawaiian easily outscored all the others (no surprise);
-- Bumping: JetBlue, which doesn't overbook, didn't bump anybody, and Hawaiian was close;
-- Mishandled baggage:
-- Complaints: Southwest and
The problem with delivery-based scores is, of course, that an airline promising little and delivering it well can outscore a line that offers a significantly better product but makes a few more mistakes. A line as bad as
If your idea of "quality" focuses more on onboard service and features, AQR scores mean nothing. Most admittedly subjective surveys these days tend to rate JetBlue's product as the best coach/economy class in the business, with its tops-in-the-world legroom and customer-friendly policies; Continental and Virgin America have also been earning good marks. Sadly, Midwest, once a perennial winner for a really good coach product, is now completely gone.
The annual AQR release usually generates more ink (and pixels) that I've seen so far, probably because of the media focus on the concurrent
-- AQR scores measure only part of the quality picture, and
-- Last year's scores do not necessarily predict this year's performance.
Personally, I prefer a better product to slightly better delivery, but it's an individual choice.
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