New Study Anoints the Best and Worst Airlines

What are the best and worst airlines? A newly released study looks at 13 key metrics, including on-time departures and customer complaints, to come up with a list of the top airlines, and those you might want to avoid.

What are the best and worst airlines? WalletHub’s recently released study uses 13 key metrics to come up with the winners and, as some politicians would say, “losers.” The financial analysis site focused on three broad areas: Baggage, departures, and complaints; animal-related incidents, including injury and death; and in-flight comfort and cost. The three categories were weighted, with “baggage, departures, and complaints” carrying the most weight in the calculation. WalletHub’s researchers reviewed government data for the 10 largest US airlines as well as three regional carriers.

Out of possible scores of 100, here are WalletHub’s findings:

Best Overall Airlines

Virgin America (soon to be part of Alaska Airlines), came in as the number one airline with a score of 74.88

JetBlue ranked second with 68.73

Alaska Airways ranked third with 64.82

Worst Overall Airlines

United Airlines ranked last with a score of 48.03

American Airlines came in second to last with 48.18

ExpressJet came in third to last with 48.30

Most and Least Reliable

Fly Delta, and you have the lowest chance of experiencing cancellations, delays, and mishandled luggage.

Board ExpressJet and Envoy Air and you have the greatest likelihood of dealing with those problems.

Most and Least Comfortable

Book a seat on JetBlue for the most comfortable in-flight experience and fly Spirit and Frontier for the least comfortable flight.

Most and Least Pet-Friendly

WalletHub reports that six airlines tie for having no pet deaths, injuries, or losses, making the carriers the best ones for your pets: Virgin America, Spirit, Southwest, JetBlue, Frontier, and Envoy Air. Alaska and United are the worst airlines for pet travel.

Most and Least Satisfactory Based on Consumer Complaints

Alaska had the lowest consumer complaint rating in 2015 while Spirit had the highest consumer complaint ratings.

The Take-Away

Many travelers, if not most, choose their carriers based on the most convenient times and airport locations plus the most reasonable costs, factoring in the number of stops, plane changes and length of airport layovers. But when we find several airlines offering similar schedules and fares, it’s informative to know which carrier might make the flight more comfortable for us, or at least, not as wretched as their competitors’ flights. So thank you, WalletHub.

As a pet lover, I am dismayed that Alaska Airlines can promote itself as among the top three best airlines when the carrier also has the worst score for pet injuries, losses, and deaths. I understand how these seemingly contradictory statements can coexist. Alaska likely carries many more people than pets. Still, it seems unfair to anoint Alaska Airlines with the title of “lowest consumer complaints” if they’ve killed, maimed, or misplaced even one pet.

Based on your experience what airline rates as the best and the worst? Comment below or connect with me on Twitter, @familyitrips.