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Last Updated On: 4/8/2013

Virgin America came out tops in a new report card issued on U.S. airlines.

In a study of 14 leading airlines, Virgin America scored the highest Airline Quality Rating score of -0.35 for performance in 2012.

JetBlue was second with an AQR score of - 0.43.

Developed in 1991, Airline Quality Rating scores rank airlines on 15 elements in four areas - On-time arrival, boarding denial, mishandled baggage and customer complaints.

The Airline Quality Rating 2013 study conducted by Wichita State University and Purdue University found that the Airline Quality Rating industry score for 2012 fell slightly in overall performance quality over the previous year.

Virgin - Good Showing

Virgin acquitted itself well on all four of the key metrics on which the AQR relies.

Its on-time performance of 83.5% came in above the industry average for on-time performance of 81.8%.

The airline's involuntary denied boarding performance of 0.07 per 10,000 passengers was the second best of the airlines rated and compares favorably to the industry average of 0.97.

Virgin's customer complaint rate of 1.50 complaints per 100,000 passengers does not stray far from the industry average of 1.43.

Its mishandled baggage rate of 0.87 per 1,000 passengers is the best of the 14 airlines rated and way ahead of the industry rate of 3.07 bags per 1,000 passengers.

Not Equal

It is true that flying in the U.S. is generally an unpleasant experience, unless you happen to fly Business Class.

But some airlines like Virgin America offer travelers a better experience than others.

The next time you book a flight for travel inside the U.S., consider Virgin America if it's not already on your list.

Of the 12 carriers rated in both 2011 and 2012, seven carriers improved in Airline Quality Rating scores.

American Eagle had the largest improvement in overall score, while United and SkyWest experienced the largest decline in AQR score for 2012.