Complaining about air travel is a tale as old as time. Well, as old as air travel anyway. Jerry Seinfeld wasn’t the first to ask, “What’s the deal?” and he certainly hasn’t been the last. In fact, with recent high-profile cases of airlines doing horrific things such as forcibly removing customers and killing pets by making their owners put them in the overhead compartment, air travel is as big a nightmare as it’s ever been.
Or is it?
According to new research, U.S. airlines are actually improving based on multiple statistical measurements. Per Time, “U.S. airlines are getting better at handling baggage and overcrowded flights and are getting fewer complaints.” Researchers used data from the U.S. Department of Transportation to track four metrics: “on-time arrivals, mishandled baggage, bumping passengers, and consumer complaints.”
Per lead researcher Brent Bowen, the only category in which U.S. airlines didn’t improve was on-time flight arrivals. In 2017, the number of late flights increased due to computer glitches and weather. That said, one airline did improve in all four arenas, and if you’re a stand-up comedy fan or a person who has been alive for the past, oh, 20 years, you might be surprised.
Despite John Mulaney’s assertion that Delta airlines is a “f*cking nightmare,” they ranked first for on-time flights, baggage handling, offering incentives to bumped customers, and customer satisfaction. Following Delta were JetBlue, Southwest, and former top-dog Alaska Airlines, which was the number one airline in the 2016 and 2017 rankings.
And definitely surprising no one who has ever flown or even been near an airport, coming in last was budget airline Frontier. You know, the guys who charge you to even get a seat assignment. Per the Boston Globe, they had “the highest number of customer complaints and the largest percentage of late flights.” (American Airlines was second-to-last.)
Though perhaps this is all relative, as TripAdvisor’s recently released top 10 airline ranking only included one U.S. carrier: Southwest.