Airlines perform better but complaints are up

WASHINGTON (AP) — An annual study of airline quality finds that carriers improved their performance last year. But even though there were fewer lost bags and bumped passengers and more on-time arrivals, travelers were not happy.

The survey says that complaints to the Transportation Department about airline performance shot up 28 percent in 2010.

Dean Headly is a co-author of the report, which is based on Transportation Department data. He says while it’s hard to nail down precise causes for the spike in consumer disenchantment, changes in airlines’ business practices are the likely culprit.

The number of air travelers is increasing, but there are fewer flights with fewer seats. Flights are more crowded, it’s tougher to rebook when a flight is canceled and many airlines are adding surcharges for things like checked bags.

Here's how the nation’s 16 largest airlines stacked up, based on the number of complaints per 100,000 passengers:

—Delta Airlines, 2

—United, 1.64

—US Airways, 1.53

—Continental, 1.48

—American, 1.44

—Comair, 1.25

—JetBlue, 1.25

—Frontier, 1.23

—Hawaiian, 1.16

—American Eagle, 1.03

—AirTran, 0.90

—Skywest, 0.61

—Atlantic Southeast, 0.54

—Mesa, 0.53

—Alaska, 0.44

—Southwest, 0.27

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