America's Best Airlines in 2017

Long one of the lowest rated of all U.S. industries, the country’s airlines have made something of a comeback over the past four years. In 2013 airlines scored just ahead of internet services providers (ISPs) and cable TV providers at the bottom of the rankings maintained by the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Airlines’ scores improved by 4.3% in 2016 and now rank ahead of five services, including ISPs and cable guys (still at the bottom), municipal utilities, fixed-line phone services and wireless phone service.

The average cost of a round-trip flight last year was $370. And while cost is a significant factor in which airline a consumer selects, other factors — delays, canceled flights, comfort — are also important to consumers.

The best airline, overall, was Alaska Air Group Inc. (NYSE: ALK). Other category winners were Spirit Airlines Co. (NASDAQ: SAVE), which was ranked cheapest; Alaska rated most reliable; JetBlue Airways Inc. (NASDAQ: JBLU) was most comfortable; best for pets was Alaska; and the airline receiving the fewest complaints was Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE: LUV).

Researchers at WalletHub scrutinized the monthly U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT) reports on Air Travel Consumer Report for 2016. The reports contain data on airline operations such as on-time arrivals, lost baggage and oversold planes. Most of the data are supplied by the airlines to the DoT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, although the agency’s complaint report is based on complaints lodged directly with the DoT, which does not attempt to determine the validity of the complaints.

WalletHub focused on the country’s 10 largest airlines, along with two regional carriers, and created six weighted metrics to include in their overall ranking: canceled flights, delays, mishandled baggage reports, denied boardings, complaints and animal-related incidents. The researchers also scored the airlines on five comfort metrics: legroom, entertainment options, Wi-Fi availability, complimentary refreshments and ticket price.

Based on the WalletHub research, here are the rankings for America’s 12 best airlines for 2017, along with their total score out of a possible 100.

  1. Alaska Airlines: 81.02
  2. Delta Air Lines: 73.08
  3. SkyWest Airlines: 68.67
  4. United Airlines: 63.38
  5. Virgin America: 62.30
  6. JetBlue Airways: 62.00
  7. American Airlines: 61.79
  8. ExpressJet Airlines: 61.73
  9. Hawaiian Airlines: 56.64
  10. Southwest Airlines: 55.83
  11. Spirit Airlines: 53.17
  12. Frontier Airlines: 44.82

The full report and methodology are available at the WalletHub website.