The U.K.-based airline quality rating firm Skytrax has issued the results of its latest annual survey on the world’s best airports; the winners showed only minor shifts in their placements from last year’s poll, and once again, there are no U.S. airports in the top 10.
Air Travel News
Instead of relying on airline employees to help them with their travel processing and problems, air travelers would really like to see more technological options for taking care of themselves, according to the results of a new survey.
In car rental news, Germany’s largest rental firm sets its sights on significant U.S. expansion; the Zipcar car sharing operation now has vehicles available at New York City airports; an all-Audi rental start-up opens another Texas airport location; and Hertz adds exotic cars at some European locations.
In news of U.S. airlines, Delta has started to renovate the cabins in the last of its five widebody aircraft types; American’s CEO makes an appearance on YouTube, but it’s not an advertisement; Virgin America raises a passenger fee; and Hawaiian eyes a new Asian route.
What do you think is the busiest air route in the world in terms of passenger numbers? New York-London? San Francisco-Los Angeles? Not even close. In fact, the busiest air route does not involve North America or Europe, but it does involve a city you probably never heard of.
A flurry of news reports at week’s end indicated that Boeing’s troubled 787 Dreamliners could be cleared as soon as this week to return to the air, but also that U.S. travelers are now facing the prospect of significant delays as the Federal Aviation Administration begins to furlough air traffic controllers.
In news of U.S. airlines, American plans to raise fees for membership in its Admirals Club airport lounge program, and also announces new routes out of Los Angeles; Frontier brings airline service to a state that has none; and Delta eyes a new route to London Heathrow.
The academics at Purdue and Wichita State who compile the annual Airline Quality Rating (AQR) from a variety of government-collected statistics have come out with their report for the calendar year 2012, and it shows that certain carriers showed considerable improvement — like American Eagle — while others fared worse than the year before — like United.
The study looks at things like on-time performance, passenger bumpings, mishandled baggage and consumer complaint rates. Overall, the U.S. airline industry’s performance in 2012 declined from the previous year, but “only slightly,” the report said.
The industry’s on-time arrivals rate rose from 80.0 percent in 2011 to 81.8 percent in 2012, while mishandled baggage rates were 3.07 per 1,000 passengers last year, an improvement from 3.35 in 2011. But the number of “involuntary denied boardings” rose from 0.78 per 10,000 passengers in 2011 to 0.97 last year; and passenger complaints filed with the Transportation Department jumped more than 20 percent, to 11,445 in 2012.
“With a mixed bag of gains and losses across the 14 carriers rated, the nearly identical AQR score for the industry (compared to 2011) is a positive sign,” the report said. “The maintenance of the AQR score at a near record low level during difficult economic times speaks well of the industry.”
Among individual companies, the report noted that American Eagle showed the biggest improvement in overall performance last year. The airline cut its denied boarding rate in half and boosted its on-time performance rate by more than five points, to 81.6 percent. Eagle reduced its mishandled baggage rate considerably as well, although it was still above the industry average.
United, on the other hand, showed the biggest decline in performance compared with 2011 (the figures reflect the combined earlier results for United and Continental). According to the report, United’s on-time arrival rate dropped almost three points to 77.4 percent in 2012, while the rate of mishandled baggage rose from 3.66 per 1,000 passengers in 2011 to 3.87 last year. The airline’s passenger bumping rate rose more than 80 percent in 2012, to 1.82 per 10,000 passengers; and the number of customer complaints filed with DOT almost doubled.
Virgin America was included in the 2012 ratings for the first time, and showed a relatively strong performance, with the industry’s lowest rate of mishandled baggage, second-lowest rate of passenger bumpings, and on-time performance (83.5 percent) above the industry average.
Under its originally announced schedule, the Federal Aviation Administration was supposed to start shutting down control towers last week at 149 low-traffic airports that use outside contractors as air traffic controllers. But now those closings have been put off — for a while.
Boeing has finished the required testing of its redesigned lithium-ion battery system for the grounded 787 Dreamliner and sent the results to the Federal Aviation Administration, and there seems to be a growing optimism in the industry that the troubled plane could return to commercial flying in a matter of weeks.