Virgin America Best, United Airlines Worst, According to Airline Quality Rating Report

An airplane operated by Virgin America rests at the gate at the crack of dawn at Los Angeles International Airport. Photograph by FlyerTalk member Jafa39. Click on the photograph for a trip report written by Jafa39.

The commercial aviation industry in the United States performed at its second-highest level in its history, according to the 2013 Airline Quality Rating report, which was recently released.
Of the 14 airlines operating in the United States which were included in this report, Virgin America scored the highest score in 2012; while United Airlines scored the lowest. A spokesperson for United Airlines reportedly disclaimed that the 2012 data does not reflect the experience of passengers of United Airlines “today, or even over the past six months.”
The Airline Quality Rating report — conducted since 1991 and authored by a professor at Wichita State University and a professor at Purdue University — focuses on four criteria: the involuntary “bumping” of passengers from flights, the punctuality of the arrivals of flights, mishandled baggage, and complaints by customers. Airlines are required to report the data of those four criteria to the United States Department of Transportation, which measures those consumer metrics.
Generally, the experience of passengers in the commercial aviation industry in the United States improved with more flights arriving on time and fewer mishandled bags; but the number of customer complaints and denied boardings of passengers both increased as well. The only year in which the commercial aviation industry experience scored better overall was in 2011.
Among to the findings of the 2013 Airline Quality Report are the following:

  • Hawaiian Airlines — at 93.4 percent — had the best on-time performance of all the airlines in the report
  • American Airlines and ExpressJet tied for the worst at 76.9 percent
  • jetBlue had the fewest denied boardings at only 0.01 per 1,000 passengers
  • SkyWest had the most denied boardings at 2.32 per 1,000 passengers
  • Virgin America had the fewest mishandled bags at 0.87 per 1,000 passengers
  • American Eagle had the most mishandled bags at 5.80 per 1,000 passengers
  • Southwest Airlines enjoyed the fewest customer complaints at only 0.25 per 1,000 passengers
  • United Airlines had the most customer complaints at 4.24 per 1,000 passengers
  • While Delta Air Lines ranked number four, that carrier ranked significantly higher than comparable legacy airlines

Here are the overall rankings of the airlines included in the 2013 Airline Quality Rating report:

  1. Virgin America, at -0.35
  2. jetBlue Airways, at -0.43
  3. AirTran Airways, at -0.51
  4. Delta Air Lines, at -0.58
  5. Hawaiian Airlines, at -0.71
  6. Alaska Airlines, at -0.77
  7. Frontier Airlines, at -0.78
  8. Southwest Airlines, at -0.81
  9. US Airways, at -0.87
  10. American Airlines, at -1.11
  11. American Eagle, at -1.78
  12. SkyWest Airlines, at -1.88
  13. ExpressJet, at -1.95
  14. United Airlines, at -2.18

Although the report includes regional airlines such as ExpressJet, American Eagle and SkyWest — all of which operate regional flights for the legacy carriers — notably absent from the report are airlines such as Spirit Airlines, Allegiant Air, and Sun Country Airlines.
I wonder how their data would have scored…