Smoother flying for passengers in 2009

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Airline passengers complained less about flying last year, but less people flew as people spent less, according to a new study.

The study, sponsored by Purdue University in Indiana and Wichita State University in Kansas, shows that planes landed on time more often and bags got lost less often, even as airlines reduced scheduled flights and started charging passengers for everything from bags and pillows to so-called premium seating in coach.

The study, which looked at government data on 18 airlines, found there was a slight increase in denied boardings, mostly due to people being bumped due to overbooking. For every 10,000 passengers, an average of 1.19 passengers were denied boarding in 2009. Only 1.1 million passengers were denied boarding the previous year.

The top rated airline in 2008 was Hawaiian.The worst was Atlantic Southeast, which operates Delta Connection regional flights. If you don't want to be bumped, fly Jet Blue - it has a policy against overbooking and had so few denied boardings its rate showed up as zero.

In 2007, airlines had enjoyed their busiest levels since Sept. 11, 2001, when a terrorist attack on the U.S. severely depressed airline travel. Last year there were 704 million U.S. airline passengers, compared with 770 million in 2007.

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