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2004 Airline Quality Rating Released;
Alaska Ranked In Top Four Performing Airlines


April 5, 2004

Three of the top four performing airlines are low-fare carriers, according to the national Airline Quality Rating (AQR) study. The 14th annual study, ranking the 14 largest U.S. airlines, was announced today (April 5) at a news conference in Washington, D.C. Jet Blue debuted in the Airline Quality Rating as the No. 1 one ranked airline. Alaska was No. 2, and Southwest, America West and US Airways round out the top five.

The overall airline industry performed slightly better in 2003 than in 2002, thanks to a significant drop in customer complaints. Of the 10 carriers rated in both 2002 and 2003, only American Airlines and US Airways had a decline in their AQR scores. Airlines rated for the first time are Jet Blue, AirTran, ATA and Atlantic Southeast.

The AQR is a summary of month-by-month quality ratings for the largest domestic U.S. airlines operating during 2003. Co- researchers Brent Bowen, director and professor, University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) Aviation Institute/School of Public Administration and Dean Headley, associate professor of marketing at Wichita State University (WSU), used 15 elements important to consumers when judging the quality of airline service.

The rating is conducted annually by the UNO Aviation Institute and W. Frank Barton School of Business at WSU. The AQR, as an industry standard, provides consumers and industry watchers a means to compare quality among airlines using objective performance-based data. It is a cooperative research project funded as part of faculty research activities at UNO and WSU.

The AQR ranked the 14 largest airlines for 2003 as follows:

 1) Jet Blue
 2) Alaska
 3) Southwest
 4) America West,
 5) US Airways
 6) Northwest
 7) Continental
 8) AirTran
 9) United
10) ATA
11) American
12) Delta
13) American Eagle
14) Atlantic Southeast.

"The low-fare carriers are definitely solid in their ability to attract passengers, and it shows in the market share gains that they're making," said Headley. In 1991, low-fare carriers only had about 4 percent of the market share. Today, low-fare carriers have about 25 percent of market share. That number could climb to nearly 40 percent in the next few years.

"This year's AQR adds further evidence to the emerging performance gap between the legacy carriers and the no-frills network carriers," said Bowen.

Criteria included in the AQR are screened to meet two basic elements: They must be readily obtainable from published data sources for each airline, and they must be important to consumers regarding airline quality. The resulting criteria include areas such as baggage handling, customer complaints, denied boardings and on-time arrivals.

Other major industry findings in this year's research study include:

  • Overall airline quality improved for the third consecutive year.
  • Airline performance declined slightly in the areas of on- time arrivals, involuntary denied boardings and mishandled baggage.
  • Customer complaints in 2003 dropped by nearly 50 percent compared to 2002.
  • Northwest was the most improved airline in 2003.
  • The mishandled baggage rate for American Eagle was more than double the industry rate.
  • Jet Blue was easily the top-rated airline in fewest denied boardings, and second in on-time performance and fewest customer complaints.



2004 Airline Quality Rating - Full Report


Source of News Release:

Aviation Institute - Univerity of Nebraska at Omaha
Web Site



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