Delta holds strong in airline ranking, AirTran falls

Delta Air Lines ranked fourth among U.S. airlines in an annual airline study, while AirTran Airways fell to 10th place out of 15 airlines.

Atlanta-based Delta was also the top-ranked major network carrier in the Airline Quality Rating study of airline performance in 2013, released Monday. The top three spots were filled by smaller carriers, with Virgin America taking the top spot, followed by JetBlue and Hawaiian Airlines.

“Bigger hasn’t always been better, but in Delta’s case we are seeing a large airline perform at levels usually only seen by smaller low-fare carriers,” said Dean Headley, associate professor of marketing at Wichita State University and co-author of the study, in a written statement. Delta acquired Northwest Airlines in 2008 and saw its on-time performance and customer service rankings plummet in the two years following, but has since staged a recovery.

AirTran, meanwhile, is still in the middle of being folded into Southwest Airlines, which acquired AirTran in 2011. The AirTran name will disappear by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, AirTran’s ranking dropped from No. 3 to No. 10 in the Airline Quality Rating. That was the biggest drop among all of the carriers studied. Southwest maintained its No. 8 spot.

Although airlines overall improved their performance in 2013, Delta, AirTran, Southwest and other airlines have struggled with massive cancellations amid storms in early 2014.