Best and Worst: US Airlines

March 2, 2017
Kerry Lengyel

Can you guess which is the top-ranked domestic airline?

Airlines are not exactly adored by Americans, but they are a necessary part of many of our lives. On average, more than 2 million Americans fly every day.

The Points Guy, a website devoted to smart travel with an emphasis on airlines and frequent flyer programs, recently rated the 10 largest domestic airlines to find out which was the best and which was the worst.

The rankings were generated by analyzing government reports and factoring in data from various organizations that compile airline-related statistics. The Points Guy also relied on 10 criteria covering 4 broad categories—price, convenience, headaches, and extras—to come up with the best of the best.

Here are how the top 10 domestic airlines ranked.

1. Alaska Airlines

  • Placed in the top 4 in more than half of the criteria—airfare, on-time arrivals, lost baggage, involuntary bumps, customer satisfaction, and frequent flyer program
  • Negative: The size of its route network is currently not very large

2. United

  • Didn’t rank at the top for any criteria, but ranked high for several—route network, cabin comfort, baggage and change fees, and lounges
  • Negative: Could use some improvement in customer satisfaction

3. Virgin America

  • Ranked well on airfare, cabin comfort, lost baggage, and involuntary bumps; ranked third in airfare costs
  • Negative: Low scores for involuntary bumps and lounges

4. JetBlue

  • Ranked well on baggage and change fees, cabin comfort, and customer satisfaction
  • Negative: Low scores for on-time arrivals and involuntary bumps

5. American Airlines

  • Has the largest route network of any airline
  • Negative: Low scores for customer satisfaction, lost baggage, and involuntary bumps

6. Southwest

  • Low baggage and change fees
  • Negative: More expensive than most airlines and has no premium class seats

7. Delta

  • Ranked in the top 3 in almost all the performance criteria—on-time arrivals, customer satisfaction, involuntary bumps, lounges, and overall size of the airline
  • Negative: It’s expensive

8. Hawaiian Airlines

  • The most on-time airline of the 10 ranked
  • Negative: Smallest route network, relatively high fares, lounges in Hawaii only, and a middling frequent flyer program

9. Frontier

  • Low-cost carrier means very cheap airfare
  • Negatives: Ranked last in baggage and change fees and lost baggage

10. Spirit

  • Low-cost carrier means very cheap airfare
  • Negative: Ranked last in 4 criteria—on-time arrivals, customer satisfaction, cabin comfort, and frequent flyer program; ranked second to last in baggage and change fees