Best U.S. Airlines: 2014 Edition

This is the third year that the Airfarewatchdog team has put U.S. airlines head-to-head in search of the Best U.S. Airline. You can see last year’s rankings here, and the ones from 2012 here. As usual, we ranked the airlines based on their performance in five key areas—canceled flights, on-time arrivals, mishandled bags, denied boardings, and customer satisfaction—to give you 2014’s best of the best.

As you can see from our carefully laid-out charts below, there were some interesting findings this year. As far as we’re concerned, Delta is this year’s unsung hero. For the past two years, Delta has been stuck on the wrong side of the rankings, but this year, the airline moved from sixth up to the top spot! Delta ranks higher this year in canceled flights, on-time arrivals, and mishandled bags, but its most-improved area is customer service. The other legacy carriers—US Airways, American, and United—maintain their usual spots at the bottom. When it comes to the airlines involved in major mergers—Southwest with AirTran and American with US Airways—business is as usual. JetBlue continues to be a leader in customer service but is falling behind in a few other areas. Without further ado, we bring you the Best U.S. Airlines of 2014!

Top Airlines for Overall Performance*
Delta
1 st Place
Virgin America 
2 nd Place
Alaska
3 rd Place
JetBlue
4 th Place
Frontier
5 th Place
Southwest
Southwest
AirTran
6 th Place
American
American
US Airways
7 th Place
United
8 th Place
*Rankings determined by combining the airlines’ scores in all categories

Individual Categories
Fewest Canceled Flights*
Delta 
0.11% Canceled
Alaska
0.13% Canceled
Virgin America
0.18% Canceled
Frontier
0.63% Canceled
Southwest
Southwest
AirTran
0.71% Canceled
0.75% Canceled
0.22% Canceled
United
1.31% Canceled
American
American
US Airways
1.76% Canceled
2.33% Canceled
1.01% Canceled
JetBlue
2.42% Canceled
*Based on Department of Transportation (DOT) report on May 2014 flight cancellations at all reportable airports

On-Time Arrivals*
Alaska
89.67% On-Time
Delta
84.41% On-Time
Virgin America
81.77% On-Time
American
American
US Airways
79.10% On-Time
76.78% On-Time
82.11% On-Time
JetBlue
77.32% On-Time
United
76.39% On-Time
Frontier
73.42% On-Time
Southwest
Southwest
AirTran
72.68% On-Time
71.82% On-Time
83.86% On-Time
*Based on DOT report on May 2014 on-time arrivals at all reportable airports

Fewest Mishandled Bags*
Virgin America 
1.04 Mishandled
Frontier
1.65 Mishandled
JetBlue
1.79 Mishandled
Delta
1.93 Mishandled
Alaska
2.42 Mishandled
United
3.37 Mishandled
American
American
US Airways
3.73 Mishandled
3.74 Mishandled
3.72 Mishandled
Southwest
Southwest
AirTran
3.89 Mishandled
3.83 Mishandled
4.91 Mishandled
*Based on DOT report on May 2014 mishandled baggage reports per 1K passengers

 Amount of Denied Boardings* 
JetBlue
3.58 Denied
Virgin America
17.13 Denied
Alaska
56.56 Denied
American
American
US Airways
73.58 Denied
68.63 Denied
80.06 Denied
Delta
74.06 Denied
Frontier
119.07 Denied
Southwest
Southwest
AirTran
135.96 Denied
120.45 Denied
293.37 Denied
United
245.61 Denied
*Based on DOT report on January to March 2014 involuntary denied boardings per 1MM passengers

 Customer Satisfaction Score* 
JetBlue
79
Southwest
Southwest
AirTran
74
78
70
Delta
71
Alaska
70 (tie)
Frontier
70 (tie)
Virgin America
70 (tie)
American
American
US Airways
66
66
66
United
60
*Based on 2014 American Customer Satisfaction Index scores