Let’s face it. We all have a love/hate relationship with the airlines that we fly. The seats get smaller, the legroom is unbearable and passengers charged whenever the airlines find the opportunity.
According to a new study conducted by ThePointsGuy.com, which has 3.3 million unique visitors per month and is a leading resource for travel news, Alaska Airlines is the best U.S.-based airline. Spirit Airlines received the lowest ranking of the 10 major carriers included in the report.
The full ranking, along with an interactive tool that lets users customize which factors are most important to them, is available here:
The report is the most comprehensive of its kind. Whereas other best/worst airlines lists rely heavily on consumer surveys and a narrow set of criteria, ThePointsGuy.com incorporated these 10 objective, wide-ranging factors (weighting in parentheses): airfare (25%), route networks (15%), bag/change fees (10%), cabin comfort (10%), customer satisfaction (10%), frequent flyer programs (10%), on-time arrivals (10%), lost baggage (5%), domestic lounges (3%) and involuntary bumps (2%).
Alaska Airlines earned top honors in the frequent flyer program category and placed second in customer satisfaction and on-time arrivals. Its main drawback is a mediocre route network, but its ongoing merger with Virgin America should improve that situation, especially in popular markets such as California, New York City and Washington, D.C.
United came in second overall thanks in large part to its comfortable cabins and an abundance of lounges (it rates second in both categories).
While Virgin America placed an impressive third overall, its ranking is choppier than most. On the plus side, Virgin topped the list for cabin comfort and it loses the fewest bags per passenger of any airline on this list. However, a limited route network (second-worst) and pricey bag/change fees (third-highest) kept Virgin from a higher ranking.
Spirit took the bottom spot on the list thanks to last-place rankings for cabin comfort, customer satisfaction, frequent flyer perks and on-time arrivals, plus zero lounges. It earned a top score for cheap fares, but Spirit didn’t place higher than fifth in any other department.
Frontier (second-worst overall) is similar to Spirit. It ranks in the bottom half of every classification except airfare, where it’s second-best.
Sources: Airline websites (domestic lounge availability), Bureau of Transportation Statistics (airfare, bag/change fees and lost baggage), OAG (on-time arrivals), PlaneStats.com (airfare, bag/change fees and lost baggage), Routehappy (cabin comfort, including in-flight entertainment, food, seat pitch, WiFi and more, weighted by flight duration), U.S. Department of Transportation (customer satisfaction, measured by complaints per 100,000 passengers, as well as involuntary bumps, which represents the number of passengers per 1,000 that were rebooked without their permission because of an oversold flight)
About The Points Guy:
ThePointsGuy.com (TPG) is a trusted travel and lifestyle media platform. Launched in 2010 by founder Brian Kelly, TPG consists of an expert team of travel editors, searching around the clock for the latest deals and breaking industry news. Updated multiple times daily, TPG’s ability to cut through the noise and provide useful and applicable advice has established us as an industry leader.