Alaska Airlines again took the crown as best U.S. air carrier in the latest rankings released by travel website The Points Guy. The Seattle-based airline, whose merger with Virgin America was recently finalized, scored as the overall best air travel experience, edging out runner-up Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines, which took third place.
The airlines were judged across four categories: price (including airfare, plus baggage and change fees), convenience (routes available, on-time performance and passenger comfort), extras (lounges, reward programs and other amenities) and headaches (lost luggage, overbooked flights and overall customer service). The nine largest U.S. airlines as measured by number of domestic passengers were included in the rankings.
Alaska Airlines secured the top spot by ranking among the top three performers across every category, and scored big points for its highly rated frequent flyer program. Southwest scored consistently high marks as well, and charged the lowest baggage and change fares of any carrier (Southwest generally offers both for free).
Despite its horrible year on the public relations front -- lowlights being a passenger drag-out and a scorpion falling on and stinging a passenger in mid-flight -- United Airlines only dropped two spots in the updated rankings, ending up in fourth place. Shockingly, given all its bad press in 2017, United markedly improved in customer satisfaction, with passenger complaints dropping nearly 20 percent. Fewer passengers were bumped as well.
Another carrier feeling blue is JetBlue, which had the most precipitous year-to-year fall among the big airlines, sliding down four spots to No. 8. Despite ranking well in cabin comfort and in-flight entertainment, JetBlue ranked last among the nine airlines in on-time performance and fared worse in baggage and change fees as well as customer satisfaction, which was once its bread and butter.
Hawaiian Airlines is the only carrier to rank below JetBlue, and its placement is less about poor performance and more for its comparatively limited route map, for which it gets dinged in the survey. “Even a theoretically ‘perfect’ airline that was the most comfortable in the world with the greatest customer service and best on-time arrival rate,” according to The Points Guy, “wouldn’t rank that highly to most people if it didn’t fly to where the average customer needs to go.”
Here’s the full ranking of this year’s best U.S. airlines:
1. Alaska Airlines
2. Southwest Airlines
3. Delta Air Lines
4. United Airlines
5. Frontier Airlines
6. American Airlines
7. Spirit Airlines
9. Hawaiian Airlines