The results are in for the Wall Street Journal’s “Best and Worst Airlines of 2015“, and Alaska Airlines has been ranked the best U.S. based carrier for the third consecutive year.
The Middle Seat Scorecard ranks the nation’s largest carriers on seven different measures that the WSJ says is most important to travelers. Those categories are: On-time Arrivals, Canceled Flights, Extreme Delays, 2-Hour Tarmac Delays, Lost Baggage, Involuntary Bumping, and Complaints.
In 2015, Alaska Airlines finished first in four of the seven categories, giving the airline its fourth title in five years. Alaska has finished first or second every year in the rankings since 2010.
Virgin America and Delta Air Lines turned in second and third place performances respectfully. It is the second consecutive year that those airlines finished in those positions. Southwest and JetBlue rounded out the top five.
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The WSJ scorecard notes that the industry is improving reliability as a whole, with fewer flight cancellations and improved on-time performance in 2015. According to data collected from GEE Operations Solutions, about 80% of U.S. airline flights arrived at the gate no later than 14 minutes behind schedule—the DOT definition of on-time. That number is an improvement from about 76% in 2014.
Also noted in this year’s scorecard are increased performances in baggage handling. In 2015, airlines that were included in the 2014 scorecard saw an 9% decrease in mishandling of baggage over 2014.
The news was not all positive however. American Airlines finished in last place on the scorecard in 2015. American has perennially finished at or near the bottom, coming either in last or next-to-last every year since 2007.
“American’s merger with US Airways continued to affect operations last year. Until reservation systems merged in October, customers were still connecting from one airline to another, slowing baggage handling and leading to higher rates of complaints”, said Robert Isom, American’s chief operating officer to the WSJ.
American also struggled at its largest hub in Dallas-Fort Worth, which saw major weather events in February, May and December in 2015.
Spirit made its scorecard debut in 2015 with a next-to-last performance. According to Spirit, the prime reason it finished so low in the rankings was that it does not build a cushion into its schedule to help hide flight delays.
Spirit’s operations were severely hindered in July when a weather event left a significant portion of Spirit’s pilots and flight attendants stranded in Chicago. Only a few days later, a tropical storm hit Texas, crippling operations out of one of Spirit’s key cities. According to Spirit spokesman Paul Berry, it took Spirit roughly six weeks to recover from July’s events.
United Airlines was able to climb out of the basement, after having finished last in each of the previous three years. Though it is still in the bottom half of the rankings, United saw vast improvements in on-time performance, baggage handling, passenger bumping, and flight cancellations.