The Valley’s two largest airlines ranked in the top six among domestic carriers for quality service in 2004, according to the Airline Quality Rating.
The study released Monday said five of the top six carriers in the survey were low-cost carriers. JetBlue repeated its first-place ranking from 2003. It was followed by AirTran Airways and Southwest. America West finished in sixth place, down from its fourthplace ranking in 2003 and 2002.
The only traditional or "legacy" carrier in the top six was United Airlines. Overall, the industry declined in quality compared with 2003, according to the rating, which is done annually by the University of Nebraska and Wichita State University.
Of the 14 carriers rated in 2003 and 2004, only AirTran, Atlantic Southeast, Jet Blue and United showed improvement in their overall scores for 2004. The score for Southwest in 2004 was virtually unchanged from its 2003 level.
The rating looks at the overall performance quality of the airlines based on elements such as on-time, denied boardings, mishandled baggage and customer complaints.
As an industry, on-time arrival percentage was down from 82 percent in 2003 to 78.3 in 2004. The study’s authors said the poorer performance was the result of a system that is taxed because more people are flying more planes on runways and airport slots and air traffic control systems that haven’t kept up.
Tempe -based America West’s score in the survey declined in 2004. On-time performance slipped from 82 percent in 2003 to 75.7 percent in 2004. The rate of mishandled baggage worsened from 3.30 per 1,000 passengers in 2003 to 3.98 in 2004.
Consumer complaints increased to 1.02 per 100,000 passengers in 2004 from 0.84 in 2003, reversing a recent improvement trend. The number of passengers ‘‘bumped,’’ or denied boarding for space reasons, increased, moving from 0.40 per 10,000 passengers served in 2003 to 0.70 in 2004.
Southwest ranked third in the 2005 survey, the same ranking it has received since 2002. The Dallas-based carrier recorded a decline in ontime arrival percentage from 86.3 percent in 2003 to 80.1 percent in 2004, and an increase in customer complaint rates from 0.14 per 100,000 passengers in 2003 compared with 0.18 per 100,000 passengers in 2004.
"Southwest Airlines is consistently the airline with the lowest customer complaint rate in the industry," the survey said.
The number of passengers denied boarding for space improved from 1.02 per 10,000 passengers in 2003 to 0.95 per 10,000 passengers in 2004. Southwest’s mishandled baggage rate of 3.35 per 1,000 passengers in 2003 was unchanged for 2004.