America's Best Airlines in 2018

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 4.2% last year and now rank ahead of 10 services, including ISPs and cable guys (still at the bottom), fixed-line phone services, wireless phone service and health insurers.

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

Researchers at WalletHub scrutinized the monthly U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT) reports on Air Travel Consumer Report for 2017. 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 nine 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.

The best airline overall was Alaska Air Group Inc. (NYSE: ALK) while the cheapest was Spirit Airlines Inc. (NYSE: SAVE). Delta Air Lines Co. (NYSE: DAL) was rated most reliable, JetBlue Airways Corp. (NASDAQ: JBLU) was rated most comfortable, Hawaiian Holdings Inc. (NYSE: HA) was rated best for pets and Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE: LUV) received the fewest complaints.

We should note that Alaska Airlineswas number one in WalletHub’s 2017 rankings as well, but its score dropped by nearly seven points this year. Delta, at number two, dropped by just half a point. The largest move upward came at Hawaiian, up from ninth a year ago to third. Ultra-low-cost carrier Spirit continues to rank last.

Based on the WalletHub research, here are the rankings for America’s 11 best airlines for 2018, along with their total score out of a possible 100.

  1. Alaska Airlines: 74.18
  2. Delta Air Lines: 72.57
  3. Hawaiian Airlines: 69.71
  4. SkyWest Airlines: 68.74
  5. ExpressJet Airlines: 66.43
  6. American Airlines: 62.29
  7. United Airlines: 59.14
  8. JetBlue Airways: 59.10
  9. Southwest Airlines: 57.05
  10. Frontier Airlines: 54.84
  11. Spirit Airlines: 53.08

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