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Airlines' treatment of passengers slowly improves

By Joan Lowy

Associated Press

Published: Monday, April 2 2012 6:09 a.m. MDT

AirTran had the best baggage handling rate, 1.63 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers. American Eagle had the worst baggage handling rate, 7.32 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers. That was more than double the industry rate of 3.35.

Seven airlines improved mishandled baggage rates in 2011: Alaska, American, Atlantic Southeast, Delta, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue and SkyWest Airlines. The mishandled baggage rate for the industry decreased from 3.49 per 1,000 passengers in 2010 to 3.35 last year.

Southwest Airlines once again had the lowest consumer complaint rate, 0.32 complaints per 100,000 passengers; United Airlines had the highest consumer complaint rate at 2.21.

Headley attributed United's high complaint rate to rough patches in the airline's merger with Continental. The airlines, which merged their reservation operations in March, now operate under the United name.

The overall rate of customer complaints was virtually unchanged, 1.19 in 2011 compared to 1.22 in 2010. Only five of 15 airlines improved their customer complaint rates for 2011 — AirTran, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian and JetBlue.

The majority of complaints fell into four categories: flight problems, 34.9 percent; baggage, 14.3 percent; customer service, 12.1 percent, and reservations, ticketing and boarding, 11.2 percent.

The ratings are based on data submitted to the Transportation Department by the 15 airlines who carried the most passengers domestically last year — AirTran, Alaska, American, American Eagle, Atlantic Southeast, Continental, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Mesa, SkyWest, Southwest, United and US Airways. Headley and Purdue University aviation technology professor Brent Bowen, co-writer of the report, are scheduled to release an overall ranking of performance on Monday. Their research is sponsored by Purdue, in Indiana, and Wichita State.

Follow Joan Lowy at http://www.twitter.com/AP_Joan_Lowy

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