Moves by major US airlines to improve customer service appear to be paying off with the 2018 Airline Quality Rating study producing the best combined industry score in its 29-year history.
Delta Air Lines led the pack in the annual survey of performance data by US researchers Dr. Brent Owne of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Dr. Dean Headley of Wichita State University.
Delta moved from the number two spot in 2017 to replace Alaska Airlines, which fell back to fourth.
It was followed by JetBlue, Southwest , Alaska, Hawaiian, United, Spirit, American and Frontier.
The survey tracks four objective measures of airline performance: mishandled baggage, denied boardings, consumer complaints and on-time arrivals.
The industry score has improved each year for the four years to 2018 and last year saw an improved performance in three of the four tracked areas.
The mishandled baggage rate in the US fell from 2.46 per 1000 passengers to 2.43 per 1000 passengers. Airlines globally have been introducing improved baggage tracking technology to bring down this rate.
Involuntary denied boardings improved to 0.14 percent per 10,000 passengers in 2018 from 0.34 percent per 10,000 passengers in 2017.
The consumer complaint rate across the industry declined from 1.35 per 100,000 passengers to 1.04 with the majority of complaints relating to flight problems, baggage problems, reservation, ticketing, boarding or customer service.
The study noted the 23 percent decrease in the rate of consumer complaints in 2018 suggested improved performance was being noticed by the flying public.
The one area that did not improve was on-time arrivals. This fell from 80.2 percent in 2017 to 79.6 percent in 2018.
“Overall, another good year of industry performance,” said Dr. Headley said in announcing the results.
“The best-ever industry AQR score for 2018 is largely due to improvements in the rate of involuntary denied boardings and the rate of customer complaints. Consumers have demanded better and the industry listened and improved.”