The 2014 Airline Quality Rating report has named Virgin America as the “highest-quality major airline” in the United States. Richard Branson’s privately owned line has now won the top spot twice.
The study used several factors in creating a list of airlines that are less likely to leave you frazzled thanks to things like delays and lost luggage. Focusing on the data provided (by law) to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the report found that in 2013:
*82.1% of all flights arrived on time (this number could be viewed as skewed due to other factors like different routes, etc)
*0.97 bags per 1,000 passenger were lost or damaged
*0.04 ticketed passengers per 10,000 were bumped or denied boarding
*1.28 per 100,000 passengers lodged complaints (slightly high)
To compare those numbers with the national average:
*78.4% flights were late or delayed
*3.21 bags per 1,000 passengers were lost, damaged or mishandled
*0.89 ticketed passengers per 10,000 were bumped or denied boarding
*1.13 per 100,000 passengers lodged complaints
JetBlue, Hawaiian Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines finished out the top 5 airlines. Overall, scores were up in the industry. However, there is one airline that receives the most complaints, but still sees packed flights…Spirit Airlines.
A Consumer Reports survey ranked it as the last place finisher in all U.S. airlines. Yet, you will still see full flights and it is also one of the fastest growing lines.
The ticket prices are cheap. Lures of $30 fares to select cities and even a “club” price offers $9 fares that get passengers on the plane. But, once you get there be prepared to pay for anything else you might want – including water. Baggage fees, peanuts and space in the overhead compartment will all cost you extra.
CEO Ben Baldanza explained to NPR’s Planet Money in February, “Well, if we were a retailer, some high service airlines in the world would think of themselves as a Nordstrom. I bet if you were to talk to the guys at JetBlue, they’d say maybe we are Target or trying to be even better than Target,” he prefaced his point. “We’re Dollar General. That’s right. We’re not even Walmart. We like being Dollar General because we like saving people lots of money.“
The process is, “pay for what you use and don’t pay for what you don’t use.” The practice helps keep ticket prices down, but people are accustomed to a certain standard in flying. Those who go in blind, are appalled and forget that they only paid $70 for a ticket that would cost them $150 on another line. Those who know what they are getting into prepare for the fees and take a BYOB approach to flying with Spirit to avoid the a la carte sticker shock.
Either way, the numbers don’t lie and Spirit’s cheap tickets are still packing planes and opening new routes faster than other lines.