United Ranked Worst Major Airline in the U.S.

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — It’s official: United Airlines is a terrible carrier.

United had the third worst on-time arrival rate and received the second highest number of consumer complaints of any airline in 2010, according to an annual study conducted by Wichita State University, helping it to beat out other carriers for the title of worst major airline in the U.S.

The study took into account on-time arrivals, denied boardings, mishandled baggage and total customer complaints, all drawn from U.S. Department of Transportation data, to determine the rankings for the list.

On the whole, the quality of airline service was actually slightly better in 2010 than the year before, as three of the four categories showed modest improvement. Mishandled baggage rates, for example, dropped to 3.49 per 1,000 passengers from 3.88 the year before, while the number of passengers who were involuntarily denied boarding the plane decreased to 1.08 per 10,000 from 1.19 in 2009. The only category that became worse year over year was consumer complaints, which shot up to 1.22 per 100,000 passengers from 0.97 the year before.

But while the industry as a whole showed signs of improvement, the quality of United’s service only got worse. More passengers reported being denied boarding, and the number of consumer complaints went from 1.34 per 100,000 in 2009 to 1.64 in 2010.

There has certainly been no shortage of public complaints about United in recent years. The airline has been criticized for everything from its flight attendants to its reservation system to a series of music videos from one particularly angry customer who was upset that the airline had broken his guitar. Add to that all the fees the airline charges and it’s no surprise that the airline would rank near the bottom of any list.

Still, if the folks at United are looking for consolation, they need only turn to the regional carriers, most of which were found to have even worse service.

American Eagle proved to have the worst record overall, with a denied boarding rate of 4.02 per 10,000 passengers, and a mishandled baggage rate of 7.15 per 1,000 passengers, each of which were by far the highest in the country.

The major airlines ranked as follows, from best to worst:

1.    Airtran

2.    Hawaiian

3.    JetBlue

4.    Alaska

5.    Southwest

6.    US Airways

7.    Delta

8.    Continental

9.    Frontier

10.    American

11.    United

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