Southwest Airlines has been named the No. 1 U.S. carrier in the 2021 Airline Quality Rating. Allegiant Air, last year’s top carrier, came in at No. 2. Overall, carriers saw a 60% decrease in airline passengers.
The annual report ranks carriers based on four metrics — on-time arrivals, mishandled bags, involuntary denied boardings and customer complaints. Southwest earned the top spot by minimizing customer complaints. Frontier, which had both the highest customer complaint rate and the highest denied boarding rate, came in last among the country’s 10 biggest airlines.
Allegiant Air had the fewest mishandled bags. Hawaiian Airlines maintained its industry-best on-time arrival rate but fell from second to ninth in the overall rankings due to the high volume of customer complaints.
Hawaiian came first for on-time flight rate with 88.0% of flights arriving on time. Spirit Airlines, Southwest and Delta Airlines all turned in rates between 86 and 87%. Allegiant came in last, with a 71.3% on-time rate, while JetBlue Airways was ninth with 82.1%.
Allegiant, Delta, Hawaiian and JetBlue had a 0.0% involuntary denied boarding rate per 10,000 passengers. The worst were Frontier, with 0.24% denied boarding rate, and American with 0.20%. Allegiant mishandled fewer bags than any other carrier, with 1.5 bags per 1,000, with Southwest second at 2.7. American mishandled the most bags, at a rate of 6.4 per 1,000. United Airlines was ninth with 4.6.
Due to COVID-19, only 295.1 million people flew in 2020, which was less than 40% of the passengers who flew domestic in 2019. In January and February last year, 57.9 million people and 55.2 million people, respectively, boarded domestic airplanes but the number fell to 31.7 million passengers in March before plunging to 2.3 million in April.
About 82.8% of all airline customer complaints in 2020 pertained to refunds, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The corresponding figure in 2019? 6.6%.
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