Sunday, January 18, 2015

2014 Airline Scorecard: The Best to the Worst

As airlines shrink personal space in coach cabins, they are also finding other ways to aggravate travelers: Flight delays, cancellations, lost baggage and complaints all increased last year.
Passengers got hit with bad weather, a crippling fire at a key air-traffic control center near Chicago and runway resurfacing closures in San Francisco and Newark, N.J. Several merged airlines had problems of their own as they sought to combine operations of two airlines into one.
U.S. airlines canceled nearly 66,000 more flights last year than in 2013, and the percentage of canceled flights jumped to 2.7% from 1.9% the previous year, according to flight-tracking firm FlightStats Inc. The year got off to a bad start with polar-vortex weather hammering the East Coast and Midwest. In both January and February, the Department of Transportation reported more than 5.5% of all flights were scrubbed. The number of complaints filed with the DOT over airline service shot up 26% last year.
The results are surprising in a year when carriers are posting record profits on high fares and lower fuel costs. Airlines have been investing in new technology, both in the air and on the ground, that helped boost reliability. But the 2014 service setbacks show how fragile U.S. air transportation still is. A few disruptions triggered airline meltdowns, leaving passengers stranded for days. And old equipment is failing more often under increased passenger loads: Southwest Airlines says its baggage belts suffered a lot of breakdowns that left luggage in huge piles.

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