Last year was a good one for the airline industry, with U.S. airlines churning out the highest profits in more than a decade. With the exception of American Airlines, every major carrier turned in positive profits for the year. In the 2011 Airline Quality Rating (AQR) report released on April 4, quality is up as well.
But that doesn’t mean airlines deserve high-fives all around. Soaring baggage fees, widespread airfare increases and the elimination of free food on many flights were major factors in improving the bottom line. Not surprisingly, customers were not happy in 2010. According to a Business Insider study conducted last November, which uses data from the American Customer Satisfaction Index, four of the major U.S. carriers made its list of the “18 Worst Companies in America.” The year also saw PR nightmares for the industry, including discrimination against disabled and overweight passengers and the episode involving a JetBlue flight attendant (the now famous Steven Slater) hitting his breaking point. 2011 has already seen a pilot misplace his handgun and a flight attendant put a baby in an overhead bin — hardly a good way to start the year.
Meanest Major Carrier
United came in last place among all major airlines on our 2011 Meanest Airlines list with an AQR score of -1.31. United had the second-highest customer complaint rate (1.64 per 100,000 passengers) of all airlines in 2010, including the regional carriers.
Worst regional carrier: American Eagle
American Eagle earned last place among all regional airlines on our 2011 Meanest Airlines list with an AQR score of -2.82. The major contributing factors were that they had the most incidents of mishandled baggage (7.15 reports per 1,000 passengers) and the highest involuntary denied boardings rate (4.02 per 10,000 passengers) in 2010.
Delta has the highest complaint rate
Delta had the highest consumer complaint rate (2.00 complaints per 100,000 passengers) of all the carriers surveyed for the 2011 Airline Quality Rating (AQR) report. Delta placed #5 among major airlines on our 2011 Meanest Airlines list with an AQR score of -1.22.
Jet Blue: most likely to be unsafe
With only 17 documented incidents out of approximately 219,000 flights in 2010, the “least safe” major (minimum of 600 flights a day on average) airline is still very safe. Fortunately, commercial air travel in the United States these days is about as safe as it gets.
Delta, US Airways and Continental all share hefty baggage charges
Delta / US Airways / Continental
This worst culprit in this category depends on the type of baggage you’re checking. Delta, US Airways and Continental all share a similar fee structure, with some variance.
Domestic Baggage Fees
1st Bag: $25 ($23 if checked online with Delta or Continental)
2nd Bag: $35 ($32 if checked online with Delta or Continental)
3rd Bag: $125 for Delta & US Airways; $100-$200 for Continental
51-70 lbs: $90 for Delta & US Airways; $200 for Continental
71-100 lbs: $175 for Delta & US Airways; Continental will not accept luggage heavier than 70 lbs as checked baggage
Larger than 62 inches: $175 for Delta & US Airways; $100-$200 for Continental
American Eagle is the most likely to bump you
American Eagle had the highest rate of involuntary denied boardings in 2010, with a rate of 4.02 per 10,000 passengers. American Eagle was the worst overall airline on our 2011 Meanest Airlines list with an AQR score of -2.82.
Comair has the worst on-time rate
Comair was the tardiest airline in 2010. With only 73.1 percent of flights arriving on time, the airline had the worst on -time performance of all of the airlines surveyed for the 2011 Airline Quality Rating (AQR) report. Comair placed #3 among regional airlines on our 2011 Meanest Airlines list with an AQR score of -1.56.
American Eagle had the most incidents of mishandled baggage in 2010
American Eagle had the most incidents of mishandled baggage in 2010, with 7.15 reports per 1,000 passengers. American Eagle was the worst overall airline on our 2011 Meanest Airlines list with an AQR score of -2.82.