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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Virgin Airlines is Ranked Number One in Quality

The report ranks the Virgin Airlines number one in quality, while the United Airlines comes in last place.

Virgin Airlines was ranked number one in the United States in a report released on Monday, while United Airlines comes in last place.

The 2013 Airline Quality Report is a study conducted based on the data the airlines are mandated by law to report to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The study focuses on four criteria: on-time arrivals, denied boardings, mishandled bags, and customer complaints.

The study was first created in 1991 and has been conducted annually since.

Authored by Dr. Dean Headley, a professor at Wichita State University, and Dr. Brent Bowen, a professor at Purdue University, the Airline Quality Report is considered the premier statistical study of major airline performance in the United States.

The industry's averages for 2013 are 81.8 percent of on-time arrivals, 0.97 denied ticketed passengers per 1,000 passengers, 3.07 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers, and 1.43 customer complaints per 1,000 passengers.

Virgin Airlines ranked strong in the first three categories and ranked slightly higher than the average in customer complaints, posting 1.5 complaints per 1,000 customers.

Virgin Airlines passenger Liz Turnbach agreed with the top ranking of Virgin airlines, describing her experience with the airline saying, "It was just more organized I think. Everything was really quick and fast."  

Delta Air Lines joins Jet Blue and AirTran Airways in the top four after Virgin.

USC freshman Judah Joseph always flies with Delta Air Lines because "it has been a great experience for many years."

He attributes their success to their outstanding customer service.

"The customer service department through social media is the best in the industry," he said. "They have a Twitter account that is answered 24 hours a day."

According to Joseph the Delta customer service Twitter account responds to questions about flight statuses, delays and cancellations.

Many full-priced premium airlines like Virgin and Delta suffer from more customer complaints than airlines of lower costs because customers' expectations are higher, according to Dr. Headly.

But Joseph says that Delta Air Lines has been nothing but "a good experience, a convenient experience."

According to the 2013 ratings, United Airlines in last plast place posted well below average in every measured category.

"While some things are getting better complaints are getting worse," Dr. Headley told Forbes magazine.

Overall the airline industry has improved in quality since its worst recorded year in 2007. However, passengers often do not enjoy their flights and "people are still disgruntled," Dr. Headley said to Forbes magazine.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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