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LOCAL ECONOMIC SNAPSHOT | AIRLINE REPORT CARD

The golden middle


By TERRY MAXON
Staff Writer tmaxon@dallasnews.com

KYLE ALCOTT
Staff Artist kalcott@dallasnews.com

If you want a better experience on an airline, the Goldilocks rule seems to apply for picking a carrier: Not too big, not too small, somewhere in the middle. On about all measures compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation, low-fare carriers and smaller mainline carriers do better in on-time performance, canceled flights, customer complaints, lost bags, etc. than the big hub-and-spoke carriers or the regional airlines.

Late flights
JetBlue Airways, whose flights are concentrated in the crowded Northeast, had the worst record in 2011. But as a group, regional carriers are least likely to get you there on time or within 14 minutes.
(15 minutes or more past scheduled arrival times)

LARGE NETWORK CARRIERS Continental American US Airways United Delta Average 22.9% 22.2% 20.2% 19.8% 17.7% 20.1%

LOW FARE/SMALL CARRIERS JetBlue Frontier Southwest Airlines AirTran Alaska Hawaiian Average 26.7% 20.8% 18.7% 15.6% 11.8% 7.2% 18.4%

REGIONALS ExpressJet Atlantic Southeast American Eagle SkyWest Mesa Average 25.3% 24.8% 23.7% 20.7% 16.3% 22.7%

INDUSTRY TOTALS
30 25 20 15 10 92 95 2011: 20.4 00 05 10

Mishandled baggage
Southwest Airlines, which doesnt charge for the first or second checked bag, is about as bad as United Airlines, which does charge. But both do much better than the best regional carrier.
(Per 1,000 passengers)

LARGE NETWORK CARRIERS United American Continental US Airways Delta Average 3.66 3.55 3.35 2.7 2.66 3.11

LOW FARE/SMALL CARRIERS Southwest Airlines Alaska Hawaiian Frontier JetBlue AirTran Average 3.65 2.87 2.63 2.21 2.21 1.63 3.04

REGIONALS American Eagle Atlantic Southeast Mesa ExpressJet SkyWest Average 7.32 5.52 4.87 4.82 4.13 5.27

INDUSTRY TOTALS
10 8 6 4 2 0 92 95 00 05 10 2011: 3.39

Canceled flights
Among the large network carriers, American stands out, with a cancellation rate 55 percent higher than the nearest peer. On the other end, Hawaiian rarely cancels a flight.
(Per 1,000 flights)

LARGE NETWORK CARRIERS American US Airways United Delta Continental Average 25.1 16.2 15.7 13.9 11.8 17

LOW FARE/SMALL CARRIERS JetBlue AirTran Southwest Airlines Frontier Alaska Hawaiian Average 18 11.2 10.5 7 6.7 1.8 10.7

REGIONALS American Eagle ExpressJet Atlantic Southeast Mesa SkyWest Average 39.4 34.2 28.7 22.4 21.6 29.7

INDUSTRY TOTALS
40 30 20 10 0 92 95 00 05 10 2011: 18.2

Complaints
Year in and year out, Southwest Airlines receives few complaints per 100,000 passengers. In 2011, the worst carrier, United Airlines, had a rate of complaints seven times higher than Southwest.
(Per 100,000 passengers)

LARGE NETWORK CARRIERS United US Airways Continental American Delta Average 2.21 1.91 1.81 1.46 1.23 1.61

LOW FARE/SMALL CARRIERS JetBlue Frontier AirTran Hawaiian Alaska Southwest Airlines Average 1.08 0.76 0.72 0.7 0.48 0.32 0.53

REGIONALS American Eagle ExpressJet Atlantic Southeast SkyWest Mesa Average 1.45 1.04 0.88 0.73 0.62 0.96

INDUSTRY TOTALS
4 3 2 1 0 98 00 2011: 1.18

05

10

Denied boardings
The rate at which airlines bump passengers, both voluntarily and involuntarily, is half what it was a decade ago. Regional carriers are most likely to say sorry, were full to a ticketed customer.
(Per 10,000 passengers)

LARGE NETWORK CARRIERS United Delta Continental American US Airways Average 17.24 10.44 9.33 9.18 8.37 10.62

LOW FARE/SMALL CARRIERS AirTran Southwest Airlines Frontier Alaska Hawaiian JetBlue Average 19.52 5.81 5.21 4.46 0.83 0.05 6.4

REGIONALS Atlantic Southeast SkyWest American Eagle ExpressJet Mesa Average 27.31 20.64 19.48 18.99 15.32 20.72

INDUSTRY TOTALS
25 20 15 10 5 0 98 00 05 10 2011: 10.56

SOURCES: Bureau of Transportation Statistics of U.S. Department of Transportation; Dallas Morning News analysis

The bottom line


A tip of the hat to airlines that are doing a victory lap around better numbers save complaints in areas like bumping, timeliness and bags lost. Bumping compensation doubling last summer, stuffed overhead bins skirting bag fees and far fewer flights certainly contributed. Rick Seaney, CEO, FareCompare.com As airlines expanded pay-forservices, they largely failed to increase transparency or quality. Despite billions of dollars in fees, baggage-handling results, for example, havent materially improved over the past three years. One perhaps shouldnt be too hard on the regional carriers, since their schedules and operations are often at the mercy of the big network carriers. As they feed passengers through a connecting hub, the regionals face all kinds of opportunities for unhappy customers.

Kevin Mitchell, founder and chairman, Business Travel Coalition

Terry Maxon, staff writer, The Dallas Morning News