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A letter to the editor from SkyWest, Inc.

April 17, 2015, 6:56 PM UTC

Dear Mr. Murray,

I read your recent coverage of the Airline Quality Rating report, entitled “The Five Worst Airlines in America” with great disappointment. Fortune’s sensational headline is an egregious misrepresentation of the AQR data, which should in no way be considered the conclusive authority on “best” and “worst” ratings. Your coverage is a disservice to thousands of hardworking professionals in the U.S. airline industry, and more importantly to your audience. Allow me to specify my grave concerns:

The headline makes sweeping assumptions that the AQR is the last word in the best and worst airlines while failing to review essential facts. The headline is at best misleading and essentially categorically false in a number of specific ways:

  • The AQR ignores carriers not required to report to the DOT, including Spirit Airlines and Allegiant. For the headline “worst airlines in America” to be accurate, one would need to include all airlines in America.
  • A key metric noted in the AQR is airline denied boardings, a metric for which airlines like SkyWest and ExpressJet do not control, as their mainline partners control all seat inventory and sales.
  • The report also ignores essential operating factors outside of airline control, such as air traffic control decisions and weather:
    • Runway construction at Newark where ExpressJet’s operations are concentrated – significantly affecting the entire operation.
    • There is also conveniently no mention of the polar vortex that was so vigorously covered by media last winter, a weather phenomenon that halted airline operations in the Eastern U.S. in first quarter 2014.

Following are important facts to note about two airlines mentioned in the piece:

  • SkyWest Airlines was a top-five on-time carrier on the Department of Transportation’s consumer report for the full 12 months of 2014.
  • Excluding weather and ATC disruptions, SkyWest Airlines operated more than 99% of all flights in 2014, well above the industry average.
  • Safety being a key factor of great airlines, both SkyWest and ExpressJet have stellar safety records and continue enhancing those with each and every flight.
  • SkyWest and ExpressJet reported 0.84 and 1 complaint, respectively, per 10,000 boardings over 2014, numbers far lower than the industry average of 1.38.
  • SkyWest was named on Forbes’ 2015 America’s Best Employers List – hardly a distinction for a “worst” ranking in quality.

Fortune’s misrepresentation of the AQR, apparently for an attention-grabbing headline, is unfair to the more than 20,000 SkyWest, Inc. employees and many other aviation professionals. I hope you will handle future reports with more careful analysis that accurately reflects the full picture of the state of affairs in the U.S. aviation industry.


Chip Childs
President, SkyWest, Inc.

Read Fortune’s “These are the five worst airlines in America” here.