Over the past decade, Frontier's AQR scores weren't the stuff of an honors list. In 2014, for example, the airline received the most consumer complaints of the fifteen major carriers operating at the time. And that ignominy was followed by last-place finishes in 2017 and 2019 for combined scores in all the report's primary categories, which include on-time performance, involuntary-denied boardings, baggage service and customer satisfaction.
Frontier finished tenth out of ten airlines in the 2020 edition, too, but upped its game in 2021, the year tracked by the new study. Here's the rundown, with each carrier's 2020 rankings in parentheses.
1. Southwest (1)This graphic offers more of a 30,000-foot view — scores for each year between 2014 and 2021.
2. Hawaiian (9)
3. Delta (3)
4. Allegiant (2)
5. Alaska (4)
6. United (8)
7. Frontier (10)
8. JetBlue (6)
9. American (7)
10. Spirit (5)
The study's authors attribute the bumpiness of the ride to fallout from COVID-19. In 2020, just 295 million passengers took to the air, compared to 790 million the previous year, before rebounding to 540 million in 2021. But layoffs necessitated by the pandemic led to shortages of pilots and other ancillary personnel even as demand increased, and last year, the industry struggled to get back up to speed.
An example: Only two airlines had more on-time arrivals in 2021 than in 2020, and neither Frontier nor Spirit were among them. Frontier went from 83.9 percent of flights landing as scheduled in 2020 to 76.6 percent in 2021; Spirit's 76.7 percent on-time mark in 2021 was significantly down from 86.6 percent in 2020.
According to the section of the report devoted to Frontier, the airline, which currently boasts more than 3,000 employees and over 275 daily flights, had the highest number of involuntary denied boardings, at 0.95 per every 10,000 passengers. Its highest ranking was for baggage service, finishing in third place, with on-time arrivals in seventh place. It rated eighth in customer satisfaction, with 5.78 complaints per 100,000 passengers — a big improvement from 2020, when Frontier registered 49.30 complaints per 100,000 passengers.
The Spirit page of the study has fewer bright spots: fifth in baggage service, sixth in on-time arrivals, seventh in fewest denied boardings, and dead last in customer satisfaction. Spirit's customer complaints rose from 9.6 per 100,000 in 2020 to 11.45 per 100,000 in 2021.
Frontier has not responded to Westword's request for comment on its latest AQR scores, as well as those of Spirit. Click to read the Airline Quality Ratings report for 2022.