Virgin America Leads a Declining Group in the Latest Airline Quality Rating Report.

Published: 04-15-2015
Virgin America ranks first for the third straight year, but many of its peers are having difficulty off the runway, as many U.S. airlines took a huge nosedive in 2014 after a highly successful 2013.

Let’s have a round of applause for Virgin America, which was named the top airline for the third consecutive year in the annual Airline Quality Rating. Ranked behind Virgin America were Hawaiian Airlines and Delta for second and third, respectively.

Delta also had much to celebrate about, as they were named the most improved airline in this year’s AQR report.

However, there was an overall slippage in performance in 2014. Only three U.S. airlines improved in quality this past year, while one held steady and eight declined. This was after the 2013 report which boasted the best-ever report in terms of overall performance.

The AQR is a joint project funded by Wichita State University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott, and consists of four core elements of study: on-time performance, involuntary denied boardings, mishandled baggage, and customer complaints.

Collectively, the airlines declined in all four elements.

The recent round of mergers is one explanation for this drastic drop in overall performance, according to Dean Headley, associate professor of marketing at Wichita State.

Brent Bowen, dean of the College of Aviation at Embry-Riddle, agrees with his co-researcher, “Airline mergers and consolidations are taking a systemic toll that is bad for consumers...Performance by the airlines is slipping while they claimed this would make them better.”

The 2014 AQR had the lowest overall quality since 2008. According the CNBC, there have been four mergers among the eight largest airlines in the U.S since 2008.

Below is the ranking of the U.S. Airlines:

  1. Virgin America
  2. Hawaiian Airlines
  3. Delta
  4. JetBlue
  5. Alaska
  6. Southwest (includes AirTran)
  7. American (includes USAirways)
  8. Frontier
  9. United (includes Continental)
  10. SkyWest
  11. ExpressJet
  12. Envoy

The full report can is available at


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