Thursday, April 10, 2008

HOW TO COPE WITH WORSENING US AIRLINES

TRAVEL MOLE What can passengers do to cope with the latest Airline Quality Rating, the worst in 20 years? It showed the US's top domestic airlines are bumping more passengers, losing more luggage, arriving later and receiving more consumer complaints than ever.

The answer: if at all possible, go with the better performing airlines and avoid the others.

The top performing carriers are AirTran, JetBlue, Southwest, Northwest and Frontier.

The bottom five are Mesa, SkyWest, Comair, American Eagle and Atlantic Southeast. Among the so-called legacy carriers, Northwest came in at the number 4 spot, followed by Continental (6th), United (8th), American (9th), Delta (10th) and US Airways (11th).

And to avoid trouble? Look at the odds.

The best bet for being on time: Southwest at just over 80% (the industry average is 73%).

Atlantic Southeast at 64.7% had the worst on-time performance. Best chance of not getting involuntarily bumped: JetBlue at .02 per 10,000 passengers (industry average 1.14).

Best chance at getting bumped: Atlantic Southeast at 4.5.

Best chance at keeping your luggage: AirTran with 4.06 pieces of mishandled luggage per 1,000 (industry average 7.01).

Consumer complaints in the study were up from .88 per 100,000 passengers in 2006 to 1.42 in 2007, a whopping increase of more than 60%. US Airways took the "prize" in this category, with a ratio of 3.16 complaints per 100,000.

Fewest complaints were lodged against Southwest (.26).

The past year "was the worst year ever for the US airlines," said Brent Bowen, a study co-author and professor at the Aviation Institute at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He added:

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