Airline Travel Out of Boston Is Getting Better

A new report has good news for Jet Blue and Delta flyers.


Image Credit: Pylon757 on Flickr

Good news for frequent flyers: Airline’s performed slightly better in 2012 than they have in all years but one in the last two decades, according to the annual Airline Quality Rating Report released Monday by researchers at Purdue and Wichita State. Both on-time arrivals and the rate of mishandled bags among all airlines have improved since 2011.

Even better news for frequent flyers out of Logan. Performance wasn’t equal among all airlines, and JetBlue and Delta—the two largest airlines at Logan International Airport, and which together flew nearly 40 percent of passengers in and out of Boston last year, according to a MassPort representative—moved up in the rankings of the nation’s 14 largest airlines, with Delta moving from No. 6 to No. 4 and JetBlue coming in at No. 2, up from No. 3 in 2012. On the downside, US Airways—which flew nearly 13 percent of passengers in and out of Boston last year, making it the third largest airline at Logan—fell one spot from the previous year, coming in towards the bottom of this year’s rankings at No. 9.

The rankings are based on the airline’s performance in the four areas that the report tracks: on-time arrivals, mishandled baggage, denied boardings, and customer complaints.

All three of Logan’s largest airlines recorded a higher percentage of on-time arrivals in 2012. Delta had the highest percentage of on-time arrivals in 2012 (86.5 percent), and US Airways came in just behind them (85.9 percent). Surprisingly, JetBlue came in more than six percentage points below both airlines (79.1 percent).

But JetBlue performed significantly better in the other three performance areas, with a lower rate of mishandled bags, customer complaints, and denied boardings. At just 0.01 per 10,000 passengers, JetBlue’s denied boarding rate was a fraction of the industry average (.97 per 10,000 passengers) and the lowest of all the airlines rated. Delta’s denied boardings rate was up in 2012 (to .51 percent from .31 percent in 2011) but was still lower than US Airways (.68 per 10,000 passengers).

Based on the numbers, it looks like Delta is your best bet if you’re counting on getting to your destination on time. But that’s conditional (if you’re allowed on the plane, that is). One thing is for sure: Avoid US Airways. Despite its performance improvements in all areas, it’s still your worst bet out of the three for a satisfactory travel experience (making it seem unlikely that the airline will be able to shake the “US Scareways” nickname anytime soon).

And if you can, book a flight with Virgin America. Included in the Airline Quality Report for the first time this year, Virgin America came in at No. 1 with one of the highest percentages of on-time flights (83.5 percent) and one of the lowest denied boarding rates (0.07 per 10,000 passengers) and mishandled bag rates (.87 per 1,000 passengers). Strangely, its customer complaint rate was above the industry average (1.50 complaints per 100,000 passengers, versus the industry average of 1.43).

The only problem? From Boston, Virgin America only flies to California, Oregon, and Alaska. Sorry East Coast travelers.