Entertainment The best and worst American airlines of 2019

The best and worst American airlines of 2019


Flight cancellations increased. So did the long delays, colliding passengers with fines and consumer complaints.

Overall, 2019 was a frustrating year for many American travelers. But the pain of the trip was not distributed evenly.

Delta stood out and finished at the top of the Middle Seat scorecard for the third consecutive year. At the end of the classification? American, for the third year in the last five. Those two airlines were on different flight routes in 2019.

Just consider the difference in flight cancellations. Delta averaged only 36 per day in 2019; Americans averaged 159 a day. In mishandled luggage, Delta averaged 1,345 bags late or lost every day; The Americans mishandled more than double. And Delta involuntarily threw a total of nine passengers off its flights during the last 12-month period reported; The Americans beat more than 15,000.

Delays of two hours on the asphalt and complaints from consumers of the Department of Transportation,
based on 12 months ending in October. Involuntary shock DOT based on 12 months ending in September.
Baggage mistreated by DOT is based on 10 months from January to October. 2019

Flight data canceled on time and extreme delays for the entire 2019 year of masFlight, the Global Eagle flight data analysis unit. It includes regional affiliated and international flights.

(See the full list of airline ratings).

Airlines say 2019 had stronger daily storms and more congestion on air traffic routes and major airports than 2018. They expect things to get even worse this year.

“Climate change is here. We are seeing an increasingly bad climate and much more intense and longer-lasting weather events, "he says

Jim DeYoung

vice president of network operations at United, which finished penultimate in the overall ranking. "We have to improve the operational impact of that."

Despite the weather and congestion, Delta improved its on-time arrival rate to 83.4%, compared with 82.9% in 2018, according to masFlight, the flight data analysis unit of

Global eagle,

It provides services to airlines, cruises and others. Delta finished significantly ahead of Alaska, which ranked second in the punctuality category, and a total of 10 percentage points ahead of Frontier's last place in the punctuality category.

Punctuality is a crucial measure of the airline's performance. Airlines that operate on time are not only more reliable for customers, but also less likely to disconnect luggage or cancel flights at the end of the day. Many factors influence on-time performance: how the airline has scheduled the flight, what type of preventive maintenance is performed on the fleet, how many spare planes and reserve crew members might be available and how the airline recovers from storms and other interruptions.

"While the climate itself is beyond our control, the way we react to that climate, we plan that climate and work through that climate is certainly under our control," he says.

Dave Holtz,

Senior Vice President of Delta on the airline's operations center.

Delta's drive for reliability has resulted in better service for passengers compared to rival airlines.


Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

Delta's industry-leading cancellation rate continues to improve. The airline canceled only 0.7% of its flights in 2019, including regional partners, below 0.9% in 2018. Southwest, American and United canceled more than 2% of their flights last year, and the industry average was of 1.85% in 2019.

Delta says its main operation had 281 days with zero cancellations last year, 30 more than in 2018. Given regional partners, the total number of days 100% of the flights were completed was 165, compared to at 143 of 2018.

American had the same on-time arrival rate as last year, better than United,


and border. That is somewhat surprising, given the American work winds in 2019.

In reality, cancellations decreased slightly on the largest US airline. UU., But they were still high compared to others. Long delays, complaints and passenger crashes had increased. And American remained in the last place in baggage handling.

For more than half of 2019, a contractual dispute between American and its mechanics was essentially negotiated on the track, with passengers paying a high price. From mid-February to the end of August, American had a large number of planes out of service every morning, which forced cancellations and delays and left customers stranded. The airline had a federal judge order the mechanics to end the labor slowdown in June, but the dispute continued during the high summer season.

How airlines accumulate

The overall performance of the largest US airlines. UU. In the Middle Seat dashboard, from 2017 to 2019.



South west *



JetBlue †






South west *



JetBlue †




During the height of the slowdown, American began every day with about 50 planes out of service for mechanical reasons. Normally, the airline has about 30 planes that need repairs, even after the mechanic's night work. Having 20 short planes a day means that the airline had to cancel about 80 flights for maintenance.

At that point, he says

David Seymour,

American senior vice president of operations, "is bringing things together as best he can."

Once the work stoppage ended, American ran smoothly from September through the end of the year, with no cancellations on the main line on 15 of the last 45 days of 2019, he says. The best thing that the airline has done on perfect days before was 15 in the whole year of 2017.

"The part of last year that I want to remember is really the first month and the last four."

Mr. Seymour

He says.

American has not yet reached a new contract with its mechanics. If the labor dispute breaks out again, it is likely that American will adopt a different strategy and reduce its schedule so that it has enough airplanes to fly more reliably, he says.

"We would not take our passengers and team members back through it," says Seymour.

American and its customers had a difficult year in 2019, in large part due to a prolonged contractual dispute with the mechanics.


Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg News

The twelfth annual Middle Seat score card ranks the top nine U.S. airlines in seven key areas for travelers. The data comes from masFlight and the US Department of Transportation. UU. And in most categories they include the associated regional flights of each airline.

This year, we included Allegiant because the airline had to report operating performance statistics to the Department of Transportation for the first time. Allegiant, a discount airline based in Las Vegas that primarily flies to small cities and secondary airports, finished fourth overall.

The Score Card does not measure factors such as opinions on seating comfort, door agent and flight attendant service, ticket prices and additional fees, frequent flyer programs, updates or the convenience of the route, except when complaints appear in the Department of Transportation. But it does offer travelers a comprehensive, data-based assessment of the airline's reliability, and the ratings, now closely monitored by the airlines, highlight poor service and pressure carriers to improve.

Southwest and Alaska tied for second overall in the last Scorecard. Alaska has been the first or second in the ranking since 2010. Southwest finished third in the previous two years.

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Have you noticed a significant increase or decrease in the performance of an airline? Join the conversation below.

Alaska saw that part of its operating performance weakened a little in 2019 compared to 2018. Alaska's time-to-arrival rate decreased slightly. Cancellations and delays of 45 minutes or more increased slightly. Alaska reduced its involuntary denied boarding and fared slightly better in the percentage of passengers who filed complaints in the Department of Transportation.

Southwest had a better year despite a contractual battle with mechanics earlier this year that interrupted flight operations for many travelers. The Southwest cancellation rate for the year increased to 2.5% from 1.4%. But flying softened after mechanics ratified a new contract in May. For the year, the Southwest punctuality rate, 45-minute delays, beatings and complaints improved during 2018.

The grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX, which affected Southwest, American and United, does not appear much in these operational numbers after the first week of grounding. Once the MAX was removed from the schedules, those flights are not counted. The MAX ground connection had a persistent effect on passenger collision. American says it replaced some 172-seat MAX flights with 160-seat planes that left oversold flights. However, airlines can reduce blows by sweetening bids so passengers can give up seats and voluntarily take subsequent flights.

United tied for fifth place in 2018, but this year it fell to the penultimate, its worst performance in five years. United had more delays and cancellations in 2019 compared to the previous year. It was the fourth best in baggage handling in 2018, but fell to number 8 in luggage in 2019. On the other hand, United, after the 2017 incident in which a passenger was dragged from an airplane, continues to reduce his involuntary denied boarding. Only 107 passengers of 147 million were beaten in the 12 months ended in September, the most recent reported by the Department of Transportation.

United says it had more unexpected problems in 2019, but is investing in tools to help customers when there are interruptions. That includes keeping flights for customers who are late at the end of the day without creating additional delays and sending more text messages about delays and cancellations with detailed explanations and more opportunities to change plans.

"Those tools arrived at the right time for a really difficult year for us and for all operators," United said.

Mr. DeYoung

He says. "From the client's perspective, it is beginning to see that United makes significant investments and changes in the way we react to irregular operations."

Why not Hawaiian?

It is worth noting that the scorecard does not include

Hawaiian Airlines.

If included, Hawaiian would be number 1. But Hawaiian has a large part of its business in short jumps between islands where the weather is, well, paradise. Such limited exposure to the continent distorts comparisons. Hawaiian argues that it should be included because it faces maintenance problems, luggage handling, crew programming and other aspects like any other airline.


Write to Scott McCartney at [email protected]

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