A big drop in customer complaints helped U.S. airlines post their best ratings ever even though more flights were late and more bags were mishandled, according to a report released Monday by Wichita State University.
Virgin America topped the ratings, and three regional airlines scored at the bottom.
Among the four biggest airlines, Delta ranked best followed by Southwest, American and United, according to researchers from Wichita State University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
The Wichita State University/Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University researchers have graded airlines since 1991 on government figures for on-time performance, mishandled bags, bumping passengers, and complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation.
American Airlines and US Airways, which merged in December 2013, finished with US Airways at #7 and American Airlines at #9.
American Eagle, which is changing its name to Envoy next month, finished last at #15.
Their key findings:
ON-TIME PERFORMANCE: Airlines operated 78.4 percent of their flights on time in 2013, down from 81.8 percent in 2012. Best: Hawaiian Airlines; worst: American Eagle. Only two airlines improved: American Airlines and United.
BAG HANDLING: The rate of lost, stolen or delayed bags rose 5 percent. Best: Virgin America; worst: American Eagle.
BUMPING: The rate of bumping passengers from flights fell 8 percent. Best: JetBlue Airways; worst: SkyWest.
COMPLAINTS: Consumer complaints to the government dropped 15 percent in 2013 after rising 20 percent the year before. Best: Southwest Airlines; worst: Frontier.