Southwest Airlines tops industry quality rating

Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines Photo credit Newsday LLC / Contributor

A study ranking airlines puts Dallas-based Southwest Airlines in first place. The Airline Quality Rating is published by Wichita University in Kansas.

"Southwest did really well. They're the number-one rated carrier for performance for 2021," said researcher Dr. Dean Headley. This is the second year in a row that Southwest has topped the list.

The study rates airlines on four factors: on-time performance, involuntary denied boardings (passengers getting "bumped"), baggage handling (lost or misdirected bags) and customer complaints.

Fort Worth-based American Airlines came in 9th place out of the ten airlines that were ranked.

"They have a different approach and different system demands," said Dr. Headley. "What the two airlines two is somewhat similar. Obviously, they move people. But they approach it differently and the way they go about it can create some issues."

Overall quality rankings were down across the industry due to problems restoring staffing levels to meet an increase in demand in 2021 after the significant decline in 2020 because of COVID-19.

"During the initial parts of the pandemic, they had to shed employees just to stay financially viable. Those employees either retired or went on to other opportunities and they can't get them back," Dr. Headley said. "It takes months and years to get them back to where we were."