Aviation

So who is the best American airline?

Hannah Edensor

Hannah Edensor

Air travel website, The Points Guy, this week released its very first deep-dive ratings list of US airlines, and you might be surprised by the results.

But first, how did he arrive at these rankings?

The Points Guy looked at each carrier’s airfare (making up 25 per cent of the score), route networks (15 per cent), bag and change fees (10 per cnet), cabin comfort (10 per cent), customer satisfaction (10 per cent), frequent flier programs (10 per cent), on-time arrivals (10 per cent), lost baggage (five per cent), domestic lounges (three per cent) and involuntary bumps (two per cent).

He used data from commercial sources like Routehappy, government sources like Department of Transportation, and then a few of his own notes on frequent flier programs.

Here’s what he came up with:

1. Alaska Airlines

The Points Guy ranked Alaska among America’s finest, despite calling its route network “mediocre”, but this could all change following its Virgin America acquisition, which could see the airline rival big guns Delta, America and United even more.

Analyst for The Points Guy, Julian Mark Kheel, told Travel + Leisure, “Successfully combining two difference airline operations and cultures is extremely tricky.

“Both airlines ranked highly overall in our study…but both were weak in the number of cities and routes they serve.”

2. United Airlines

Coming in at number two, it was United’s cabin comfort and lounge availability that carrier it across the line, with Kheel telling T+L the high rating came as a bit of a shock.

“The airline’s reputation hasn’t been great in recent years,” he admitted. “United didn’t outright win in any of the 10 criteria in our study, but did perform strongly in a fairly broad range of them… even though it has some work to do to improve its customer satisfaction ratings.”

3. Virgin America

Alaska’s new acquisition topped the study in terms of cabin comfort and not losing luggage, but its restricted route network and what Kheel called “pricey” bag and inflexible change fees stopped it from moving past third step on the podium.

4. JetBlue Airways

Taking the lead in the Low Cost Carrier realm over Frontier and Spirit, JetBlue has somehow rustled up a bit of a cult following, and comes with new (cheaper) fees, giving it a good edge to inch out in fourth.

5. American Airlines

Above Delta, but below United, here is where one of the three major US carriers landed on The Points Guy list.

6. Southwest

This bad boy still offers free checked baggage on domestic flights, so that’s gotta count for something, right?

7. Delta Air Lines

Coming in at closer to 10 than 1, the major American carrier is the only of its kind to offer “basic economy” airfares, with American and United slated to add these stripped back fares this year sometime.

“Theoretically, we should see airfares decrease at airlines that launch basic economy, which is our most heavily weighted criteria,” Kheel explained to T+L.

“But this assumes Basic Economy fares are actually competitive with the low cost carriers which currently lead in our low airfares category.

“Given the unpopularity of Basic Economy with certain customers, we might also see a decrease in customer satisfaction, which could very well offset any improvements in the airfare criteria.”

8. Hawaiian

Hawaii, being a further destination from mainland US, typically offers higher airfares and a more limited route network, which were deciding factors in its low score.

9. Frontier

This LCC ranked in the bottom half of every category that The Points Guy looked at, except, obviously, for low airfare. But be prepared for minimal customer service and perks like inflight snacks, cause you won’t find them onboard this airline.

10. Spirit

While obviously gaining points for its cheap-as airfares, Spirit failed to rank higher than fifth in any other category, with Kheel explaining to T+L, “Clearly the airline is riding on the lure of low prices, even though it also charges the second most for baggage and change fees per passenger.

“As a company, Spirit has to make money so it probably can’t lower those fees without raising its airfares, but it needs to focus on vastly improving its customer experience if it wants to have any hope of bettering its reputation.”

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