WASHINGTON – Virgin America did the best job for its customers among leading U.S. airlines last year, a report said Monday, as carriers overall had their second best performance in the more than two decades since researchers began measuring quality of service.
The report ranked the 14 largest U.S. airlines.
Airline performance in 2012 was the second highest in the 23 years that Wichita State University in Kansas and Purdue University in Indiana have tracked the performance of airlines. The airline’s best year was 2011.
Besides being the overall leader, Virgin America, headquartered in Burlingame, Calif., also did the best job on baggage handling and had the second-lowest rate of passengers denied seats due to overbookings. United Airlines, whose consumer complaint rate nearly doubled last year, had the worst performance. United has merged with Continental Airlines, but has had rough spots in integrating the operations of the two carriers.
This is the first year Virgin America, created in 2007, has been large enough to be included in the rankings. United carries roughly 18 times more passengers than Virgin America, and has 702 planes, compared to 52 for the smaller carrier.
The number of complaints consumers filed with the Department of Transportation overall surged by one-fifth last year to 11,445 complaints, up from 9,414 in 2011.