Find out which domestic airlines took off as winners and which ones were grounded as losers. The study compared airlines based on factors that included price, comfort, route size, involuntary bumping as well as baggage and change fees. Do low-cost carriers rate high and do airlines with pricier airfare rate low?
The airlines were evaluated across four catagories: price, convenience, headaches and extras.
The Points Guy, a site devoted to smart travel with an emphasis on airlines and frequent flyer programs, rated the 10 largest domestic airlines by analyzing government reports as well as by factoring in data from various organizations that compile airline—related statistics. Alaska Airlines flew to the top of the list as the best domestic airline in the U.S. and Spirit landed at the bottom as the worst airline, according to TPG’s study.
To reflect how most purchase seats — based on price and convenience — Points Guy relied on 10 criteria covering four broad categories: price, convenience, headaches and extras.
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Price covered airfare plus baggage and change fees. Convenience weighed the route network, on-time arrivals and cabin comfort. Headaches evaluated customer satisfaction, the percentage of lost baggage and the number of times passengers were involuntarily bumped. Extras focused on the frequent flyer program and each airline’s lounges.
The study analyzed the 10 largest airlines measured by the number of domestic passengers. The study kept Alaska and Virgin America, separate since they are still in the process of merging.
Best and Worst Rated Domestic Airlines
1. Alaska Airlines: Alaska placed in the top four of the airlines ranked for airfare, on-time arrivals, lost baggage, involuntary bumps, customer satisfaction and its frequent flyer program. Alaska’s small route network will no longer be a problem once the airline completes its merger with Virgin America.
2. United Airlines: Even though United didn’t take the top spot in any of the survey’s categories, the survey reported United’s performance to be solid in many areas, including route network, cabin comfort, baggage, change fees and lounges.
3. Virgin America: This airline ranked well for airfare, cabin comfort, lost baggage and involuntary bumps.
4. JetBlue: JetBlue received good scores on baggage and change fees, cabin comfort and customer satisfaction, but received low marks for on-time arrivals and involuntary bumps.
5. American Airlines: The survey ranked American in the middle. The airline had the largest route network but had poor scores for customer satisfaction, lost baggage and involuntary bumps.
Click to the next page to see domestic airlines six through 10.
6. Southwest Airlines: Despite having low baggage and change fees, Southwest’s sixth place ranking resulted from having “higher fares than most people realize,” as well as no premium class seats.
7. Delta: Delta’s comparatively expensive tickets and “significant fees” weighed the airline down, pushing it into seventh place despite finishing in the top three for on-time arrivals, customer satisfaction, involuntary bumps, lounges and airline size.
8. Hawaiian Airlines: Despite being the most on-time airline in the study, Hawaiian came in with the smallest route network, relatively high fares, lounges only in Hawaii and a “middling” frequent flyer program.
9. Frontier Airlines: Although Frontier ranked second from the top for low-cost airfares, Frontier also came in second from the bottom in many of the same categories in which Spirit ranked last.
10. Spirit Airlines: The low-cost carrier came in last for on-time arrivals, customer satisfaction, cabin comfort and its frequent flyer program and next to last for baggage and change fees. Spirit, however, ranked first for cheap airfare.
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