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Alaska Airlines is the number one ranked airline for the second year in a row, just barely beating out Delta, according to a report from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's College of Aviation.

Expand chart
Data: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

The details: The study examined four main criteria, including customer complaints, denied boardings, mishandled baggage, and on-time arrivals.

  • Alaska Airlines saw an improvement in one area: "involuntary denied boardings per 10,000 passengers." But it did worse in the other three criteria.
  • The airline with the biggest number of complaints: Spirit Airlines, with 5.59 complaints per 100,000 passengers. (The industry average was 1.35.)

The big picture: Dr. Dean Headley, one of the authors of the study, told Axios that the "airline industry got better this year," which proves that "when they want to, they can change things." But, there's still a ways to go.

Flashback: Around this time last year, United experienced a major PR crisis when video surfaced of a man being dragged from the plane. Headley said that incident caused the industry to cut the "involuntary denied boarding rate by half."

The publicity surrounding that incident was what caused the change, but Headley asks: "Does it really take a dramatic incident for them to do the right thing?"

Go deeper

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
4 hours ago - Health

Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has picked former FDA chief David Kessler to lead Operation Warp Speed, a day after unveiling a nearly $2 trillion pandemic relief plan that includes $400 billion for directly combatting the virus.

Why it matters: Biden's transition team said Kessler has been advising the president-elect since the beginning of the pandemic, and hopes his involvement will help accelerate vaccination, the New York Times reports. Operation Warp Speed's current director, Moncef Slaoui, will stay on as a consultant.

The case of the missing relief money

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A chunk of stimulus payments is missing in action, thanks to a mix up that put as many as 13 million checks into invalid bank accounts.

Why it matters: The IRS (by law) was supposed to get all payments out by Friday. Now the onus could shift to Americans to claim the money on their tax refund — further delaying relief to struggling, lower-income Americans.

The post-Trump GOP, gutted

McConnell (L), McCarthy (R) and Trump. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Republicans will emerge from the Trump era gutted financially, institutionally and structurally.

The big picture: The losses are stark and substantial.