As if airlines weren’t distressing their passengers enough with continually shrinking seats, in 2014, flight delays, cancellations and lost baggage complaints all increased, further infuriating already furious flyers. 

United States’ airlines canceled almost 66,000 more flights in 2014 than 2013, according to The Wall Street Journal, and the number of complaints filed with the Department of Transportation over airline service went up 26 percent. 

Airlines are posting record profits on high fares and lower fuel costs and continue to invest in new technology to boost reliability. However, over 2.1 million bags were lost or delayed in a 12-month period ending on NOvember 2014, a 17 percent increase over the same period the previous year.

In The Wall Street Journal’s airline service scorecard, which tracks seven different key measures of airline performance, two perennial good performing airlines, Alaska Airlines and Virgin America, scored the best.

Alaska Airlines said they implemented on-board customer surveys, which has helped reduce complaints to the DOT. They also guaranteed bags to be delivered to carousels in 20 minutes, which has improved baggage handling. 

Virgin America credits its ranking to a generous employee-incentive program that offers a 3 percent bonus for high scores (in customer-satisfaction surveys, aircraft operations and safety and on-time performance).

In 2013, United Airlines ranked last or next-to-last among eight airlines in all seven categories, including on-time arrivals, cancellations and tarmac delays, which ranged in the two-hour mark. The airline has had several years of subpar service as it struggled with the merger with Continental Airlines.

Airline Scorecard

Overall Airline Rankings  2014 (according to The Wall Street Journal)

  • 1.Alaska
  • 2.Virgin America
  • 3.Delta
  • 4.JetBlue
  • 5.Southwest
  • 6.Frontier
  • 7.American
  • 8.United

Southwest Airlines, the only carrier to offer two checked bags for free per passenger, was the worst performer in mishandled baggage.

Although Hawaiian Airlines scored well in many of the categories studied, it was not included in the rankings because of its lack of exposure to the mainland U.S. 

The largest carrier in the world in terms of passenger traffic, American Airlines, had significant operational changes in 2014 from its merger with U.S. Airways. Operations at more than 100 airports were combined, and the two airlines began connecting passengers to each other. In the combined results, American got higher rates of mishandled bags, resulting from problems moving luggage between the two airlines.