Posted October 1, 2008 by Carl Unger
Forbes.com recently released a report on what it considers to be the most reliable airlines in the industry. Southwest came out on top, with JetBlue third and AirTran fourth—meaning low-cost carriers (LCCs) took three of the top four spots on the list, ahead of all the "big" airlines except for Continental, which placed second.
Here's how Forbes came up with the list. The website "collected five years' worth of data relating to on-time arrival, cancellations, complaints and mishandled baggage from the Aviation Consumer Protection Division of the Department of Transportation. Delays and cancellations, the factors most likely to ruin a flier's day, were given double weight." Forbes also included rankings from J.D. Power and Associates' consumer satisfaction reports, and factored in each airline's financial strength.
The result, as I mentioned above, puts Southwest firmly on top overall, as well as in several individual categories (particularly punctuality and cancelations). AirTran was the best at not losing its passengers' luggage, while JetBlue fared very well in customer-service topics.
What makes this list interesting is that LCCs, while typically successful from a price standpoint, and in some cases known for their customer service, don't necessarily have a reputation for good performance. After all, Forbes prefaces its own results by writing, "Budget carriers aren't always considered smooth-running operations offering a consistent level of service." As this report shows, however, the LCCs are doing more than holding their own in the hostile, turbulent airline industry.
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