Virgin America best US airline performer in 2012

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WASHINGTON (NBC) – A new study shows airlines are doing a better job.

While there are still plenty of complaints, researchers found that many of the airlines are getting passengers and their bags to their destinations with near-record efficiency.

The annual study by Wichita State and Purdue universities found U.S. airlines are getting better marks.

“In the 23 years that we’ve conducted this study, airline performance is at its second highest level ever,” said Purdue’s Brent Bowen.

While United fared worst, Virgin America was at the top of the heap.

“They don’t lose bags and let people on the airplanes when they want to get on the airplanes,” explained Wichita State’s Dr. Dean Headley.

Hawaiian and Alaska scored the best on-time performance.

Among the worst were Jetblue, Frontier and United.

The study found on-time flights are up, while mishandled bags are down.

Still, customer complaints are on the rise.

Common complaints included unfriendly staff and charges for amenities.

The researchers behind this study aren’t expecting much good from the merger of the poorer rated airlines U.S. Airways and American.

“When you put two mediocre airlines together what are you going to get? One worse airline,” Bowen predicts.

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