WSU researcher: US Airways is tops

1:59:19 AM CDT - Thursday, April 10, 2003

Improvement is the big news that came out of this year's Airline Quality Rating study, which is co-authored by WSU's Dean Headley.

With fewer passengers flying because of a slower economy and the fear of terrorism and with the airlines scheduling fewer flights, eight of the 10 major U.S. airlines did better in such areas as baggage handling, on-time arrivals, denied boardings and customer complaints.

"That's a good thing, but it should have improved, given that there are fewer passengers and fewer scheduled flights," Headley said. "We'll have to see if the improvements stick when passenger traffic goes up in the next two, three years."

The AQR ranked the 10 major airlines as follows for their 2002 performances: 1) US Airways, 2) Alaska, 3) Southwest, 4) America West, 5) Continental, 6) American, 7) Delta, 8) United, 9) Northwest, and 10) American Eagle.

The ratings were announced this week in a Washington, D.C., news conference.

Customer complaints continued to go down in 2001 they had gone down 30 percent from 2000; this year they were down by half from 2001.

American Eagle was the only airline to show a noticeable decline in performance while Northwest remained the same. The other eight improved.

"It's interesting to note that despite the financial problems faced by the industry, we are seeing marked improvements across the board," said co-researcher Brent Bowen, a former WSU faculty member who now is at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Many airlines are facing financial struggles. US Airways recently emerged from bankruptcy protection last week, while United is in bankruptcy. Labor contracts and rising fuel costs continue to be struggles for the airline industry, Headley said.

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