Southwest on Top, American Airlines at Bottom

The Wall Street Journal‘s Scott McCartney put together a scorecard of airline performance for 2009 and Dallas’ own Southwest Airlines came out on top, while Fort Worth’s own American Airlines brought up the rear among nine major airlines. He factored in on-time punctuality, flight cancellations, baggage handling, complaints, and bumping.

He said the gap seems to have closed somewhat between the best and the worst on the list, but he still sang the praises of Southwest:

It’s worth noting what an accomplishment the on-time crown in particular is for Southwest. Other airlines used to dismiss Southwest’s on-time prowess as artificial because the airline didn’t have automatic reporting of arrival times and instead had pilots writing down times on paper napkins, allowing fudging. But Southwest added automatic reporting devices to its jets years ago. Southwest’s record was downplayed because the airline didn’t fly to the congested Northeast for many years or congested hub airports. And now it does. It does have the advantage of a diverse route network where problems in one city won’t bog down most of the airline. But Southwest’s system is a lot more complex in many ways than other airlines. It operates far more flights each day than any other U.S. airline, and keeps a frenetic schedule with quick turns at each stop, requiring timing and hustle. It’s dependable transportation. Not much muss. Not much fuss. Sit down and go.

Sometimes, that is what you look for in an airline.