According to the annual Airline Quality Rating report released on Monday, U.S. airlines posted their second-highest overall performance rating in 23 years.
Unfortunately, that’s down slightly from 2011. And consumer complaints jumped by a whopping 20% as passengers — particularly frequent flyers — railed against packed planes and smaller seats.
The good news: Airlines improved in the critical measurements of on-time performance and baggage handling. The bad news: Consumer complaints and involuntary denied boardings (passengers with confirmed reservations who are bumped from oversold flights) increased.
The AQR is an annual, independent analysis of government airline data by researchers at Purdue University and Wichita State University. The researchers use a weighted average of four metrics — on-time performance, denied boardings, mishandled baggage and consumer complaints. Of the 14 U.S. carriers the AQR tracked in 2011 and 2012, seven airlines improved, five declined and two were added to the rankings.
Some airlines had a few things to crow about in 2012, foremost among them AQR newcomer Virgin America, which scored the highly coveted first place in its first year in the survey. And JetBlue (NASDAQ:JBLU) came in second, up one spot from 2011’s third-place finish.
But some are a long way from cruising altitude. Here are the five worst airlines in 2012: