Just like any other service-oriented business, airlines compete for your dollar. And to do that, they need to give you a certain level of passenger satisfaction. Being at the top of the list of the airline rankings for the best airline is a priority for the carriers. It is interesting how the major US airlines approach this. They all have similar, yet very distinctive ways of earning your business and your loyalty.
With more people taking to the skies every year, these airlines continue to compete for your business. The low-ranking airlines will need to step up their game if they want to climb the ranks.
Airline ranking & review “authorities”
Airline rating sites and companies on the web are over-saturated. The airline award sources are always privately or commercially operated, each hoping to be the most recognized source for airline rankings.
These airline ranking and review sites are actually competing with other same-kind sites to be the “number one authority” on the ranking of airlines.
The way ranking sites compete is no different from how airlines compete to win the number one spot on these sites.
For a most accurate unbiased assessment of airline rankings and airline loyalty programs, you should always refer to award-sources that are generally recognized as a competent and unbiased authority.
Best US airline rankings
The airline rankings awarded here were compiled by comparing the passenger rankings and review-averages on three different recognized award authorities:
- Trip Advisor’s Travelers Choice Awards.
- Airline Quality Ratings.
- The Points Guy.
After careful analyses and comparisons based on the rankings from these websites here is what we found:
#10 Frontier Airlines
Frontier is a Denver-based, low-cost airline, serving more than 100 cities in the US, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. The International Council on Clean Transportation. recently named Frontier the industry’s most fuel-efficient airline. Most of their current fleet is less than 5 years old.
Frontier Airlines Pros
One of the lowest-cost regional airlines in the US, even rivaling Southwest and Jet Blue. They have an okay rewards program and nifty animals on the back wing of each plane. You can say with a straight face that you rode an eagle into town. (Or a bear, or a wolf, or a fox.)
Frontier Airlines Cons
With the low prices come a lack of cabin comforts and on-time flights. The number of passenger bumps is also on the higher side, resulting in one of the highest rates of customer complaints in the industry.
#9 Spirit Airlines
Spirit is another budget airline serving the US. Headquartered in Miramar, Florida, they fly to 75 destinations, mostly in the US, but also the Caribbean and Central/South America. The fleet is comprised entirely of economy-class seating. For an additional fee, you can purchase wider seats with more legroom at the front of the plane.
Spirit Airlines Pros
A great bare-bones alternative, as their rates are among the best in the industry. This airline also has a low missing-bag record. If you can avoid the plethora of fees, such as change fees and baggage fees (even overhead bin fees), you will get a real bang for your buck here.
Spirit Airlines Cons
There is little in the way of cabin comforts, and it has the second-worst rewards program overall. As far as bumping people on flights, only Frontier rivals them in this regard. There are many added fees, such as checked baggage and onboard snacks and drinks (no full meals here.)
#8 Allegiant Air
Nevada-based Allegiant is a budget carrier that flies all its passenger’s economy class. It is a more regional airline, and many routes fly only a couple of times per week. Having said that, it is America’s 9th largest airline, flying to about 120 destinations.
Allegiant Air Pros
If you can find a suitable flight, their rates are among the lowest in the industry. The airline very recently replaced its fleet with modern Airbus aircraft, which should alleviate mechanical concerns that have been plaguing them over the last few years.
Allegiant Air Cons
As it is a low-cost airline, there are little to no cabin features and a high number of customer complaints. Delayed flights are also a problem for Allegiant. They come in last in the best value of loyalty programs.
#7 United Airlines
For such a large airline (the world’s largest as far as the number of destinations is concerned), you’d think they’d pay a little more attention to excelling at customer service. United Airlines is lacking in several things. They consistently rank solidly in the middle of the road for overall satisfaction. Based in Chicago, it is the 3rd largest airline in the US.
United Airlines Pros
Good array of nice lounges at most major airports, they have the number of involuntary bumps to a minimum, which is always good. They have an excellent and easy-to-use website, and several co-branded credit cards so you can rack up those reward perks.
United Airlines Cons
Based on reviews, customer service over the phone tends to be hit or miss – as with most companies, it depends on who answers your call. The in-person staff in the terminal, as well as the flight attendants, are focused on safety, but not necessarily your comfort, according to many reviews.
#6 American Airlines
As one of the most frequently traveled airlines in the US, AA offers non-stop flights to more than 250 destinations in more than 40 countries. With hubs in all the major US airports (LAX, ORD, JFK, MIA) and even London Heathrow, their flights are distributed far and wide.
American Airlines Pros
A low passenger bump rate, and high frequent-flyer customer satisfaction. American also has co-brand credit cards so that customers can enjoy a wide array of perks, including racking up miles and enjoying access to airport lounges.
American Airlines Cons
On-time scores and number cancellations seem to plague this airline. Customer service on the phone, in the terminal, and during the flight is hit or miss.
#5 Hawaiian Airlines
As Hawaii’s largest airline carrier, it serves both sides of the Pacific and about 25 destinations within the state. Passengers from the US to the east, and Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, South Korea and the South Pacific to the west.
Hawaiian Airlines Pros
Hawaiian’s on-time record is hard to beat. The island’s excellent climate can be partially attributed to this. Due to its relatively small network, any snafus that happen are usually dealt with quickly and efficiently. Their strengths are in customer service and ease of check-in and boarding.
Hawaiian Airlines Cons
They have exorbitant baggage fees, change fees and cancellation fees. If you want extra legroom, a premium seat, or have lost your paper ticket, there are fees for that also. There are no airport lounges to speak of.
#4 JetBlue Airways
This is another low-cost leader in the regional airline industry. New York-based JetBlue rivals Southwest in customer satisfaction while serving a different piece of the US pie. It flies to 100 destinations, mostly domestic, and won Best Domestic Economy Class of the Year in 2018. A few of its flights’ service to the Caribbean and South America.
Jet Blue Airlines Pros
Overall, they have the most comfortable cabins in the air. Moreover, you will not often see a passenger get bumped, or baggage loss. This is a huge plus for many people. While ranking well overall, JetBlue’s strengths are in the check-in and boarding process.
Jet Blue Airlines Cons
Based in New York, JetBlue does have a high rate of delayed and canceled flights, which bring overall satisfaction down. As a low-cost carrier, the in-flight amenities are not on par with the larger airlines.
#3 Alaska Airlines
Alaska is the 5th largest carrier in the US and is based in Seattle. This is another regional carrier with about 100 destinations nationwide, including Mexico, Costa Rica and Canada. As its name implies, Alaska is a huge market, serving 20 destinations within the state. Its five hubs are all on the west coast, although flights do go to the east coast as well. Alaska tops many lists for overall customer satisfaction in airline rankings.
Alaska Airlines Pros
With two classes of service – first class and main class, Alaska offers additional legroom and priority boarding. Just recently they merged with Virgin America (retaining the Alaska name) and their fleet has grown considerably. Their loyalty program has one of the best perks in the industry with its Companion Fare. They are pretty consistent at great customer service.
Alaska Airlines Cons
As one of the more competitive airlines with regards to cost, their food-beverage and in-flight entertainment options tend to be minimal. The in-flight services they do provide will cost extra.
#2 Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines is another big league in the world of US airline rankings. Delta is the world-wide airline that prides itself on customer service. It flies to over 330 destinations in 64 countries and six continents. It’s also one of the oldest airlines, and a founding member of the SkyTeam Alliance, a team of 19 airlines carriers who partner with each other to better serve the public.
Delta Air Lines Pros
They consistently have a low passenger bump rate, and delays are minimal compared with other airlines. Delta offers several co-branded credit cards so you can rack up points and other rewards easily. Download the Delta app on your phone and get up-to-the-minute flight details and texts regarding your flight. On some routes, you even have the option to change flights yourself free-of-charge if yours is delayed.
Delta Air Lines Cons
Delta is consistently middle-of-the-road when it comes to in-flight services and entertainment, seat comfort, service, and value. Depending on the flight, food and drink service may be minimal in the main cabin, especially on short flights.
#1 Southwest Airlines
Southwest gets the top spot in our airline rankings survey. It is the world’s largest low-budget airline. With almost 100 destinations, most of them are in the US. Its bare-bones amenities may not sit well with many customers. However, it does have a large loyalty base with those customers that appreciate affordability. Southwest’s philosophy overall is serving the community, and judging by some of its playful flight crew, some flights can be downright fun.
Southwest Airlines Pros
Fares are very competitive and their loyalty program (Rapid Rewards) is among the best in the industry, offering the valuable Companion Pass. Customer satisfaction overall is good. Their website is easy to navigate, and they have their own credit card.
Southwest Airlines Cons
Their on-time arrivals and cancellations seem to consistently be below average. With their low-cost status, in-flight amenities are few.
Airline Rankings factors
As with any service industry, any airline you fly is only as good as the people serving you that day. Whether over the phone, in the terminal or in flight, customer service is key.
The more flights you take with any given airline, the more you will see a fluctuation in service. It all comes down to the individual airline employee and their level of service during your transaction. Everyone is human with good and bad days.
Having said that, there are clear winners and losers for overall general user experience.