Frontier gets hammered in latest airline quality study, finishes last in customer complaints

Despite sales and other changes in recent years, Frontier still likes to portray itself as Denver's hometown airline. But few will feel much hometown pride over the carrier's performance in the annual Airline Quality Rating study.

Frontier tumbled from the top ten (of fifteen total) in overall quality and finished dead last, by quite a margin, when it comes to customer complaints. Details, graphics and the complete document below.

Frontier's drop in the survey, conducted using 2013 data by academics at Wichita State University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona, wasn't the most precipitous. That dishonor goes to AirTran, which fell from third to tenth place.

However, Frontier tied for second-worst with American Eagle. Both airlines sunk by four in the rankings, with Frontier going from seventh place in the previous analysis to eleventh this time around.

Here's the list. Note that the parenthetical numbers show where each carrier finished in 2012.

1. Virgin America (1) 2. JetBlue (2) 3. Hawaiian (5) 4. Delta (4) 5. Alaska (6) 6. Endeavor (new to the rankings this year; formerly Pinnacle) 7. US Airways (9) 8. Southwest (8) 9. American (10) 10. AirTran (3) 11. Frontier (7) 12. United (14) 13. ExpressJet (13) 14. SkyWest (12) 15. American Eagle (11)

Graphically, Frontier's efforts look even less sky-high. The first image below compares 2013 scores to those from 2012....

...while the second offers a month-by-month contrast that's far from flattering: However, the customer complaint rankings are the most distressing. Continue for more about the Airline Quality Rating and Frontier, including more images and the study itself. This graphic shows complaints by airline to the Department of Transportation per 100,000 passengers. Frontier's number, 3.09, is more than 30 percent higher than the next closest airline, United. The authors of the study summarize Frontier's achievements in 2013 like so:
On-time performance in 2013 (73.1%) declined compared to 2012 (77.9%). Frontier's denied boarding performance (1.23 per 10,000 passengers in 2013 compared to 0.78 in 2012) was worse than last year. Their mishandled baggage rate of 2.15 per 1,000 passengers was slightly improved from their 2012 rate of 2.22. A customer complaint rate of 3.09 complaints per 100,000 passengers for 2013 was nearly three times higher than their 2012 rate of 1.05. Frontier's 2013 AQR score of -1.35 compared to -0.78 for 2012 was among the largest drops in AQR score of all the airlines rated.
Don't expect the animals on the tales of Frontier jets to be talking up these numbers in their next television appearance. Continue to read the study.

Airline Quality Rating 2014

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Business archive circa January 2010: "Frontier is still Denver's hometown airline despite executives' move to Indianapolis, spokesman insists."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts