Want to receive stories like this every day? Subscribe to our free Deal Alert newsletter.
Want to get where you're going on time? According to the latest Department of Transportation (DOT) data, United was your best bet in 2010. Well, technically Hawaiian was tops, followed by Alaska, but in placing third, United was the most punctual of the larger U.S. carriers. And we're not talking about a "best of the worst" situation here. With 85.2 percent of its flights arriving on time, United simply did a good job of scheduling and running its operations last year.
Notably, US Airways came in second among major carriers with an 83 percent on-time rate. AirTran, Continental, and Frontier were the other airlines to finish in the 80 percent range. For the entire industry, on-time performance was flat year-over-year: a 79.8 percent rate this year compared to 79.5 last year.
Some other interesting numbers emerged from the year-end data. AirTran was best at not losing baggage, with only 1.63 reports of mishandled bags per every 1,000 customers. Hawaiian, JetBlue, US Airways, and Frontier rounded out the top five. American was worst among major mainline carriers, and American Eagle brought up the rear. Overall, airlines performed better in 2010 than in 2009, losing 3.57 bags per thousand this year as opposed to 3.99 last year.
JetBlue was tops in bumping, with only 0.01 involuntary de-boardings per 10,000 passengers. According to the DOT data, JetBlue involuntarily bumped only 22 people all year, and only 53 people voluntarily. And these numbers are actually up from 2009. Hawaiian, AirTran, and Delta also performed very well. United, US Airways, Continental, and Frontier were the worst among larger carriers. Again, airlines did better this year overall, bumping 1.09 passengers per 10,000 this year compared to 1.23 last year.
Looking at all these numbers, one aspect jumps out: Airlines aren't getting worse, and in many cases, they're doing a better job on the details consumers care about. Fewer lost bags, fewer involuntary bumpings, and stable on-time performance. Do you feel as if airline customer service has improved lately, as these numbers suggest?