The One Airline Frequent Flyers Tend to Avoid (and Their Favorite)

Updated 03/06/18
We the People Style

The U.S. airline industry made plenty of headlines throughout 2017—but mostly for the wrong reasons. This reality makes respected travel blogger The Points Guy's annual airline ranking that much more useful for frequent flyers. After rating the largest U.S. airlines across 10 different categories spanning "every aspect of each airline's operations," the site's team of aviation experts has carefully selected Alaska Airlines as the best airline in 2018 and Hawaiian as the worst.

"It's been a significant year for airlines and travel in America, and we're thrilled that Alaska Airlines has, once again, come out on top," said Brian Kelly, founder and CEO of The Points Guy, in a press release. "We take pride in the data we've assembled from sources across the industry and largely based all criteria on what we believe regular passengers care about most. Alaska Airlines, with Southwest and Delta to follow, are clearly doing it right." The team ranked each airline according to 10 different criteria, including price, for both airfare, baggage, and change fees; convenience, including route network, number of on-time arrivals, and cabin comfort; inconveniences, including customer satisfaction, lost baggage, and involuntary flight bumps; and airline extras, including frequent flyer programs and airport lounges.

Here's the official 2018 ranking:

1. Alaska Airlines. "The airline continues to be a favorite of its customers and ranked in the top three across half of our criteria—airfare, on-time arrivals, baggage handling, customer satisfaction, and its best-in-the-industry frequent flyer program."

2. Southwest. "The carrier saw gains in two key areas—lower airfare and an increase in the size of its already substantial route network—while continuing to rate at the very top of customer satisfaction and baggage and change fees."

3. Delta. "Delta made slight improvements across several of our criteria, such as airfare and bumps, while still maintaining top three scores in others like on-time arrivals, lost baggage, and the size of its network."

4. United. "Readers wondered if United's rocky year in the public eye would affect its rankings, but the airline actually improved its performance in involuntary bumps as well as decreasing customer complaints by 17% year-over-year."

5. Frontier. "To be fair, the carrier did make noticeable improvements in mishandled baggage while continuing to aggressively expand its route network and maintained its position in nearly every other category."

6. American. "The carrier continues to put up mediocre numbers in on-time arrivals, lost baggage, fees, and customer satisfaction, criteria in which it ranked ahead of only low-cost carriers Frontier and Spirit."

7. Spirit. "Spirit had a massive advance in the area of checked baggage, leading the entire industry in minimizing lost bags. But on the flip side of the coin, the carrier came in dead last in fees charged for those checked bags, keeping the airline mired in the bottom three of our rankings."

8. JetBlue. "The biggest drop in this year's study is JetBlue, which fell all the way from fourth to eighth. The airline ticked downward in several areas, including on-time arrivals—where it ranked dead last this year—baggage and change fees, and customer satisfaction."

9. Hawaiian. "Our study puts a lot of weight on both airfare and the size of an airline’s route network, and Hawaiian doesn’t do well in either of those areas. Even a theoretically 'perfect' airline that was the most comfortable in the world with the greatest customer service and best on-time arrival rate wouldn't rank that highly to most people if it didn't fly to where the average customer needs to go."

Head over to The Points Guy for more.

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