Southwest has been named the top airline of 2020 and Frontier as the worst by Witchita State University’s Airline Quality Rating (AQR). After a year filled with travel woes and air travel down 60%, it was, to say the least, a rough year for air travel. Airlines had to do a particularly good job at keeping their customers happy, all while trying to enforce mask mandates. 

Airline Quality Ratings for 2020

The Airline Quality Rating looks at four categories: customer complaints, mishandled luggage, involuntary denied boardings, and on-time arrival percentage. The change in air travel because of the pandemic is evident in the findings. 

The airlines ranked as follows (previous years ranking in parenthesis): 

  1. Southwest (3)
  2. Allegiant (1)  
  3. Delta (4)
  4. Alaska (5)
  5. Spirit (8)
  6. JetBlue (6)
  7. American (10)
  8. United (9)
  9. Hawaiian (2)
  10. Frontier (7)

Related: Airline Hub Guide: Which Cities are Major Hubs and Why It Matters

Airline Customer Service Ratings

While customer complaints against major US Airlines were up a whopping 400% from 2019, Southwest had the least amount of complaints for the year, with 2.64 complaints per 100,000 passengers, peaking in March with 106.84 complaints per 100,000. In comparison, last place Frontier peaked in March with 2129.20 complaints per 100,000 passengers and ended the year with 49.3. 

With so many cancellations at the beginning of the pandemic, it is no surprise there was an increase in complaints. 80% of the complaints were in regards to refunds, in comparison to 2019, when the top category for complaints was regarding flight problems at 40%. 

Other Airline Quality Ratings

While customer complaints rose, almost all airlines improved in every other category in the AQR. 

Almost every airline improved their on-time arrival percentage from 2019, which makes sense since there were fewer passengers and fewer flights to juggle. Airlines were able to depart and arrive on time with fewer passengers. 

Likewise, involuntary denied boardings went down as well. With airplanes not at full capacity, and with fewer people flying, overbooking of flights was practically non-existent. In fact, 4 airlines (Allegiant, Delta, Hawaii, and JetBlue) all had zero. 

Allegiant topped the chart for least amount of mishandled luggage, with 1.75 bags mishandled per 1,000 bags enplaned. Southwest was second at 2.68. When there are fewer travelers, there is less luggage, which means less of a chance of it getting mishandled. 

Related: The U.S. Airline Most Likely to Lose Your Luggage

Bottom Line

Although 2020 was unprecedented as far as air travel was concerned, you may want to take into consideration how well an airline did in such trying circumstances, especially when it came to customer service. 

You can read the full report here. 

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