Each year, Business Travel News publishes its Annual Airline Survey, ranking the five largest domestic airlines in the U.S. The results are based on a poll of 406 travel managers and buyers who spend more than $500,000 a year on flights booked in the U.S. BTN gathers data across 10 categories, including price value, flexibility in negotiation of prices, complaint resolution, and customer service. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the results of this year’s survey and added several factors that may be an indication of future performance, including airline revenue and profitability.
Delta took the top spot for the first time in the survey’s history. BTN wrote of Delta in the report “Flexibility in structuring transient and meetings pricing helped Delta clinch a first-place finish over United, according to survey results. Delta also topped all domestic competitors in complaint/problem resolution, quality of communications and the value of its network and partners.”
Airlines care about these reports because the industry is crowded and in trouble. There are a number of niche airlines like JetBlue and several large airlines from Asia and Europe that fly into major U.S. cities. All of the airlines on this list are also affected by high fuel prices, which have hurt profitability for three years, and by low seat demand due to the recession.
An airline that struggles to fund its current staff levels and new plans may have to sacrifice routes or service to bring costs into line. Recent reports, for example, indicate that American Airlines’ parent AMR may file for Chapter 11. It is too early to say how many planes AA might take out of service if that were to happen, or how many routes might be shut down or workers laid off. Such an action, though, would almost certainly affect service.
These are the airlines, ranked best to worst, along with 24/7 Wall St.’s analysis of their prospects.