Coming & Going

Expedia restores American; AirTran gets a No. 1 ranking

Reunited, feels so good

American Airlines and Expedia have made up.

After a months-long dispute that denied Expedia users access to the airline’s flights, the companies have reached an agreement to do business together again. Fares and schedule information for American and its subsidiary, American Eagle, have been restored to Expedia and its sister site, Hotwire.

Expedia had pulled American’s fare information from its site in January when the two were unable to agree on commission fees and other issues. American, looking to cut costs, wanted to require online travel agencies to get fare information directly from the airline’s computer system rather than through intermediaries. Last week, Expedia said it would now access the information via American’s direct connect link.

Quality airlines

When it comes to airlines, we’re all critics — as quick with a thumbs down as Roger Ebert. For a more scholarly assessment, we turn to the 20th annual Airline Quality Rating report by Brent Bowen, head of the Department of Aviation Technology at Purdue University, and Dean E. Headley, an associate professor of marketing at Wichita State University’s business school.

To rank the airlines, the authors compiled statistics based on four performance criteria: on-time arrival, mishandled baggage, involuntary denied boardings and customer complaints.

Based on the data, the experts determined that 2010 was a much better year than 2009: The airline industry showed significant improvements in all but one category — customer complaints, which increased to 1.22 per 100,000 passengers from .97.

Of the 16 rated airlines, AirTran nabbed the top ranking, American Eagle the lowest. Southwest will be heartened to know that it continues to receive the lowest number of customer complaints. Its on-time arrival performance, however, suffered slightly.

If you cherish your luggage, fly AirTran, which for the second year in a row received the best score in the mishandled baggage category. If you planned to buy new luggage anyway, fly American Eagle, whose rate improved slightly but still exceeds the industry standard.

Hawaiian Airlines remains a sunny spot in the cloudy industry, with the best on-time performance, an impressive 92.5 percent.

For the full report:

Southwest: Not too down

Flying Lesson No. 1: A blown-off roof panel isn’t as bad as a Snowpocalypse or a monster ash cloud.

The recent Southwest incident involving the fly-away panel has led to some groundings of Boeing 737s, but not enough to traumatize flight schedules.

I don’t expect any major disruptions,” said Ed Perkins, editor at large of Smarter Travel, an online travel resource. “When you talk about taking five planes out of service, Southwest can handle that.”

Perkins explained that passengers will experience minimal to no inconvenience, because Southwest offers several flights a day to its destinations and has low loads. Translation: You won’t be stranded.

Fortunately, the industry has been phasing out the old plane designs, with the 737 possibly going the way of the dodo bird.

Travel ticker

Free national parks! During National Park Week (April 16-21), the National Park Service waives the admission fee at parks around the country. In addition, many sites will host special events, and tour operators and concessionaires will offer discounts, such as two-for-one tours at Buck Island Reef National Park in St. Croix. Info:

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