(WSJ) Delta shines in a ranking of measures including delays, mishandled baggage and complaints, while American lags behind its largest competitors Delta Air Lines is flying in one direction, American Airlines in the other. While Delta’s operation was best among major airlines, American remains stuck near the bottom when measuring its reliability against rival airlines.
How the Airlines Stack Up
The overall performances of the largest U.S. airlines on the Middle Seat scorecard, from 2016 to 2018.
* Alaska and Virgin America merged in 2017
Sources: Global Eagle’s masFlight Analytics Platform; Transportation Department
The largest carrier ended up next-to-last in the annual Middle Seat scorecard ranking of eight major U.S. airlines. Only Frontier, dragged down by a contract dispute with pilots, performed worse overall in 2018.
This marked the 10th time in 11 years that American end up last or next-to-last in the scorecard, which ranks airlines on seven operational measures important to travelers. American’s results for 2018 were worse than 2017 in five of the seven categories.
Delta has been in the top three every year since 2010, when it finished last. Over the past eight years, Delta has proved that a big airline can operate punctually.
Delta canceled less than 1% of its flights in 2018. American’s cancellation rate was nearly three times as high. Delta’s rate of lost or delayed baggage was half as bad as American’s. About 7% of Delta flights were late by 45 minutes or more. At Frontier, 15% of all flights suffered what are considered extreme delays.
Alaska placed second overall, trailing Delta mostly because of higher rates of mishandled baggage and involuntary bumping of passengers.
Scorecard data come from the Transportation Department and from masFlight, the flight-data analytics unit of Global Eagle which supplies services to airlines, cruise ships and others. (We don’t include Hawaiian Airlines because it doesn’t face the same mainland weather challenges.)
Frontier responded to questions about its last-place 2018 ranking with a statement saying the “operational disruption” resulted from contract negotiations with its pilots union. Negotiations took more than two years. Pilots ratified a new five-year contract last week. “While the disruption went on for longer than we had expected, we are pleased to be starting 2019 with a ratified collective bargaining agreement with our pilots,” company spokesman Jonathan Freed says.
Spirit, a low-cost carrier known for its low fares and high fees, showed significant improvement after placing next-to-last the previous three years. Spirit ranked fourth in 2018. It had the lowest rate of mishandled bags and nearly matched Delta’s rate of canceled flights.
2018 Airline Scorecard
Sort through the rankings of major carriers in key operational areas, best to worst
|Overall Rank||On-Time Arrivals||Canceled Flights||Extreme Delays||2-Hour Tarmac Delays||Mishandled Baggage||Involuntary Bumping||Complaints|
|1. Delta||1. Delta||1. Delta||2. Delta||5. Delta||3. Delta||1. Delta||3. Delta|
|2. Alaska||2. Alaska||3. Alaska||1. Alaska||2. Alaska||5. Alaska||6. Alaska||2. Alaska|
|3. Southwest||4. Southwest||4. Southwest||3. Southwest||1. Southwest||7. Southwest||5. Southwest||1. Southwest|
|4. Spirit||3. Spirit||2. Spirit||4. Spirit||4. Spirit||1. Spirit||7. Spirit||7. Spirit|
|5. JetBlue*||7. JetBlue||7. JetBlue||7. JetBlue||6. JetBlue||2. JetBlue||2. JetBlue||4. JetBlue|
|5. United*||5. United||5. United||6. United||7. United||4. United||3. United||5. United|
|7. American||6. American||8. American||5. American||8. American||8. American||4. American||6. American|
|8. Frontier||8. Frontier||6. Frontier||8. Frontier||3. Frontier||6. Frontier||8. Frontier||8. Frontier|
Showing 1 to 8 of 8 entries
*JetBlue and United both ranked fifth in overall ranking
Sources: On-time, canceled flights and extreme delays data for full year 2018 from Global Eagle’s masFlight Analytics Platform; includes regional affiliate flights and international; Two-hour tarmac delays, mishandled baggage and consumer complaints from Transportation Department, based on 12 months ended in Oct.; DOT involuntary bumping based on 12 months ended September