Airlines establish deep and devout loyalties in people — allegiances that can incite heated arguments resembling a political debate when a Delta frequent flyer starts talking about upgrade availability and on-time flight percentages with a faithful American Airlines customer.
But regardless of personal preferences, a definitive list of the best and worst airlines in America has been published. In a comprehensive study of the top-ten major domestic air carriers, The Points Guy, a leading source of travel news and independent travel research, published the study after pitting domestic carriers against one another, relying heavily on consumer surveys and a narrow set of criteria.
Taken into consideration were ten different amenities and factors, which were all weighted based on their importance to customers. They were: airfare (25 percent), route networks (15 percent), bag/change fees (10 percent), cabin comfort (10 percent), customer satisfaction (10 percent), frequent-flyer programs (10 percent), on-time arrivals (10 percent), lost baggage (5 percent), domestic lounges (3 percent), and involuntary bumps (2 percent).
After sourcing airline websites, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, OAG (the largest air-travel intelligence company in the world), PlaneStats.com, Routehappy, and the U.S. Department of Transportation feedback for each airline and applying the feedback to the above grading scale, Alaska Airlines came out on top of the list as the best airline in America. Unsurprisingly, the nickel-and-diming budget airline Spirit came in at the bottom of the list.
But as with supposedly definitive ranking, there is more to it than just “first place” and “last place.” According to The Points Guy’s release, Alaska Airlines earned top honors in the frequent flyer program category and placed second in customer satisfaction and on-time arrivals, but still took the No. 1 spot because of the weighted factors. Alaska’s main drawback is their limited route network, but its upcoming merger with Virgin America should improve that situation, according to The Points Guy. Spirit earned the rock-bottom spot on the list due to embarrassingly low rankings for cabin comfort, customer satisfaction, frequent-flyer perks, and on-time arrival. They ranked first in airfare, but they didn’t place higher than fifth in any other department.
The overall results placed United at second with high marks in cabin comfort and lounges. Virgin America came in at third place for cabin comfort and the all-important ability to keep track of people’s bags (they lose the fewest bags per passenger of any airline on this list), but limited flight routes and expensive change fees kept Virgin America from the top spot.
Here is the final list of the airport rankings from best to worst — but feel free to keep your loyalties and frequent flyer miles where you like them.
1. Alaska Airlines
2. United Airlines
3. Virgin America
4. JetBlue Airways
5. American Airlines
6. Southwest Airlines
7. Delta Air Lines
8. Hawaiian Airlines
9. Frontier Airlines
10. Spirit Airlines