Best U.S. Airlines: 2016 Edition

We have no idea who will win the presidential election this fall, but we do know which airline came on top in our search for best domestic airline! This is the fifth year that our team put U.S. airlines head-to-head in search for the best airlines. We ranked the airlines based on their performance in five key areas: canceled flights, customer satisfaction, denied boardings, mishandled baggage, and on-time arrivals.

Airlines are doing better than ever this year as a whole. Think back to your last flight—did you notice the new in-flight entertainment services or the return of free snacks? Airlines are taking record profits earned from lower fuel costs and investing them into their in-flight experiences. Better in-flight experiences, lower ticket prices, more on-time arrivals, and fewer cancellations have resulted in an increase in customer satisfaction of 4.3 percent – breaking last year's increase of 2.9 percent and matching the all-time high set in 1994.

Now to the results! This year’s winner also was ranked #1 for their rewards program by US News & World Reports. Can you guess? The best U.S. airline this year was Alaska Airlines. This airline was the top airline last year and has been in the top four since the first year the list debuted. Additionally, this year United left the absolute bottom switching places with Spirit. Below is an in-depth look at the rankings. Last year’s rankings can be found here

Top Airlines for Overall Performance*

1. Alaska
2. Delta
3. JetBlue
4. Southwest
5. Virgin America
6. Frontier (tie)
6. United (tie)
8. American
9. Spirit 

Individual Categories

Fewest Cancelled Flights**

  1. Delta 
  2. Alaska 
  3. Frontier 
  4. Virgin America 
  5. Southwest 
  6. American 
  7. United  
  8. JetBlue 
  9. Spirit  

On-Time Arrivals***

  1. Alaska
  2. Delta
  3. United
  4. Frontier
  5. Southwest
  6. American
  7. Virgin America
  8. JetBlue
  9. Spirit

Fewest Mishandled Bags****

  1. Virgin America
  2. JetBlue
  3. Delta
  4. Alaska
  5. Spirit
  6. United
  7. Frontier
  8. Southwest
  9. American

Amount of Denied Boardings*****

  1. JetBlue
  2. Delta
  3. Virgin America
  4. Spirit
  5. United
  6. Frontier
  7. Alaska
  8. American
  9. Southwest

Customer Satisfaction Score******

1. JetBlue (tie)
1. Southwest (tie) 
3. Alaska
4. Virgin America
5. American
6. Delta
7. United
8. Frontier
9. Spirit

*Based on airlines’ score in all categories

**Based on Department of Transportation (DOT) reports on January–May 2016 flight cancellations at all reportable airports

***Based on DOT reports on January–May 2016 on time arrivals at all reportable airports

****Based on DOT reports on January–May 2016 mishandled baggage reports per 1K passengers

*****Based on DOT report on January to March 2016 involuntary denied boardings per 1M passengers

******Based on 2016 American Customer Satisfaction Index scores

For more information or to speak with someone about the rankings, contact the team at PR@airfarewatchdog.com

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