Airline Quiz: Winners and Losers

With apologies to Alex Trebek

  • Answer: November, 2012
  • Question: What time period will be covered in the following geek-style airline statistics quiz?

That’s right – the following questions all pertain to a single month’s worth of U.S. government transportation statistical analysis of the airlines. Don’t be fooled into thinking any of this represents a trend or is set in concrete – what’s true for November 2012 may not be true for this month, or any months to come.

8 Airline Quiz Questions: November 2012

1. Which airline was the biggest loser when it came to mishandling baggage?

A. Virgin America

B. American Eagle

C. American Airlines

Answer: B. American Eagle had the worst record for November of last year, with 5.1 reports of baggage problems per every 1,000 passengers flown. Virgin America lost the smallest percentage of bags, amassing a mere .61 complaint rate. Maybe it should be pointed out that American Eagle typically flies small planes to smaller airports which may not always have the finely honed operations of bigger facilities. Did you know luggage is rarely “lost” for good – most suitcases eventually turn up – which is why the statistics-keepers refer to these problems as mishandled baggage incidents.

5 Ways to Keep Your Bag from Getting Lost

2. Which airline earned most prompt honors?

A. Hawaiian

B. American

C. Delta

Answer: A. Hawaiian Airlines had the best on-time record the islands’ year-round lovely weather no doubt has something to do with that. AirTran came in second place but number three may surprise some folks: Delta. Worst was American, but it may have been experiencing a residual hangover from its unhappy pilots and all those delayed flights earlier in the fall.

What to Do if Your Flight is Late, Delayed or Canceled

3. When can a flight officially be called late?

A. If it arrives/departs more than 5 hours of the scheduled time

B. If it arrives/departs within three minutes of the scheduled time

C. If it arrives/departs in less than 15 minutes of the scheduled time

Answer: C. An on-time flight must operate within 15 minutes of the scheduled arrival or departure time. But if it doesn’t, no, you don’t get a discount.

Most Delayed Flights in the U.S.

4. What was the biggest reason for delayed flights?

A. Extreme weather

B. Late-arriving aircraft

C. Air carrier delay

Answer: B. This one’s a little tricky: delays involving late-arriving aircraft occurred in almost 5 percent of all flight and as you might guess, one late airplane can create a cascading effect that lasts throughout a day. However, my guess is that a cascading or domino effect often begins with bad weather, although extreme weather was cited as a factor in just .22 percent of all flights last November. Air carrier delay was the second biggest factor, defined as delays due to “circumstances within an airline’s control” such as maintenance or crew problems.

5. What did passengers complain about most?

A. Bags

B. Flight problems

C. Customer service

Answer: B. Flight problems can mean anything from cancelations, delays, missed connections and more and people aren’t happy when any of this crops up. Bag complaints came in second, and complaints about reservations, ticketing and boarding took third place. Customer service complaints – or lack of same – was a finalist at fourth.

6. Which airline had the worst record for complaints last November?

A. United

B. Southwest

C. US Airways

Answer: A. United had a total of 162 complaints which worked out to 2.33 per 100,000 passengers flown. Southwest had the best record with just 15 complaints (for a rate of 0.16) and US Airways was roughly in the middle with 66 complaints (1.47). In case you’re wondering, these complaints are only those lodged with the Department of Transportation and do not include the nasty phone calls and angry emails to that airline that gave you so much trouble.

7. Which airline bumped the most passengers (from January to September 2012)?

A. Mesa

B. American

C. JetBlue

Answer: A. Mesa’s involuntary bumping rate worked out to 2.49 denied boardings for every 10,000 passengers. JetBlue bumped the fewest. American was roughly in the middle.

8. Which airline is the best one of all?

A. The airline that gets you and your belongings to the correct destination and gets you there on-time.

Answer: A. If only I could be more specific.

More from Rick Seaney:

Airline Snapshot: Best and Worst


Published: January 16, 2013