The airline scorecard is out again with the annual report from DOT on airline performance metrics – flights, baggage handling, passenger bumping and customer complaints.  On all of the metrics, the US did slightly better in 2011 than 2010 across the board, but only marginally so.  Performance seems to have settled in at a rate most passengers believe to be somewhat lower than it should be. performance rose ever so slightly for the industry as a whole from 79.8% to 80.0% year to year. This is a very slight improvement, but at least in the right direction. Hawaiian Airlines, enjoying its natural climate advantage and uncrowded skies, took the top spot at 92.8%.  JetBlue, operating out of the crowded New York and Boston markets with weather difficulties, was the worst performer at 73.3%.

Luggage handing also improved marginally year over year, with mishandled bags averaging 3.35 per 1,000 versus 3.49 per 1,000 the year before, a 3% improvement. AirTran led the way at 1.63 per 1,000, while American Eagle was the worst performer at 7.32 per 1,000.

Bumping dropped dramatically in 2011 to 0.78 per 10,000 passengers from 1.08 per 10,000 passengers in 2010, a 27.7% drop.  JetBlue, with its no oversell policy, was the industry leader with near zero, with Hawaiian second at a rate of 0.11, well below industry average.  The regional appeared to be most volatile in this metric, with American Eagle and Atlantic Southeast showing significant year to year differences.

Customer complaints remained nearly constant, with 1.19 per 100,000 passengers in 2011 versus 1.22 in 2010.  Southwest continued its leadership in this category with a rate of 0.32 while United had the highest rate of complaints at 2.21.

So what does this tell us?  Airline performance is getting slightly better from a passenger perspective, but not a major change from the past.  Clearly, the industry still hasn’t learned best practices from the leaders in each category, as the differences between leaders and losers is quite significant in every metric.  There remains at lot of work to be done at some carriers on fundamentals — the “blocking and tackling” of airline operations that differentiate one carrier from another.  Let’s hope that restored profitability in 2012 will enable to once again focus on performance improvements for the traveling public.

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