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Hawaiian tops customer-satisfaction list


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POSTED: Tuesday, April 07, 2009

WASHINGTON » Hawaiian Airlines topped the list of U.S. carriers that took some of the hassle out of flying last year as the industry delivered its best performance in four years.

The turnaround came just a year after the worst for passenger complaints in more than a decade.

Right behind Hawaiian in the overall ratings of 17 airlines were AirTran Airways and JetBlue Airways, private researchers said yesterday in their annual study of airline quality, based on government statistics.

The legacy airlines — American, Continental, Delta and United — were clustered in the middle, while regional air carriers filled out the bottom rungs.

“;Our congratulations go to the employees of Hawaiian Airlines, whose focus on the customer never wavered during another challenging year in the airline industry,”; Hawaiian President and Chief Executive Mark Dunkerley said. “;They are the best in the business.”;

After its worst year for customer complaints in more than a decade in 2007, the airline industry last year flew fewer people but treated them better, arriving on time more often and losing fewer bags.

Passengers also were not as apt to be bumped from flights by overbooking, which was a big problem when airlines were running at or over capacity.

The downside: Less flights, higher prices — some airlines now charge extra for any luggage — and fewer frills.

The study found consumer complaints dipped from 1.42 per 100,000 passengers in 2007 to 1.15 in 2008. Southwest Airlines had the best rate, only 0.25 complaints per 100,000 passengers; US Airways had the worst: 2.25.

Half of all complaints involved baggage or flight problems such as cancellations, delays or other schedule deviations.

Hawaiian ranked second nationally for denied boarding performance at 0.07 per 10,000 passengers and for mishandled baggage at 2.97 per 1,000 passengers. In addition, Hawaiian's customer complaint rate of 0.78 complaints per 10,000 passengers compared favorably with the overall industry average of 1.10.

Overall, U.S. airlines' average on-time performance last year was 3 percentage points better than the year before, yet nearly one-quarter of all flights were late.

The study said 12 airlines improved from the previous year, but only three airlines had better than an 80 percent on-time rate: Hawaiian, 90 percent; Southwest, 80.5 percent; and US Airways, 80.1 percent.

American, the nation's largest air carrier as measured by passengers flown the most miles, had the worst record, arriving on time 69.8 percent of the time.