Airlines customers had best year in 2009

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Airline travelers had their best overall experiences in 2009.

Hawaiian Airlines provided the best performance among 18 large U.S. airlines, according to the annual Airline Quality Report.

Airlines improved in three of the four categories used to determine the rankings, and Hawaiian was rated No. 1 overall for the second year in a row. AirTran Airways came in second, and Jet Blue was third.

American Eagle ranked last out the 18 airlines rated.

The AQR uses information the airlines report to the U.S. Department of Transportation regarding on-time performance, involuntary denied boardings, mishandled bags and customer complaints to determine an overall score for the industry and individual airlines.

The industry scored better compared to 2008 in on-time performance, mishandled bags and customer complaints. It scored worse in 2009 on involuntary denied boardings.

Hawaiian Airlines had the best on-time performance, 92.1 percent, in 2009. Atlantic Southeast Airlines had the worst at 71.2 percent. Fourteen airlines improved on-time performance in 2009, but only six of the 18 rated had on-time percentages higher than 80 percent.

American Eagle had the highest rate of involuntary denied boardings at 3.76 per 10,000 passengers. Jet Blue was perfect in that category with no involuntary denied boardings.

AirTran Airways had the best baggage handling rate at 1.67 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers. Atlantic Southeast scored the worst at 7.87 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers.

However, all 18 of the airlines improved their baggage handling scores in 2009.

Southwest had the lowest rate of customer complaints at 0.21 percent per 100,000 passengers. Delta Air Lines had the highest rate at 1.96 customer complaints per 100,000 passengers.