2017 RANKING & REVIEWS
TOP RANKING BEST AIRLINES IN THE USA


The Current State of Airlines in the USA

According to a CBS News online report focusing on the best airlines in the U.S. and major airlines in the U.S., despite more flights in the U.S. arriving on time and losing fewer bags, there are an increasing number of consumer complaints.

Based on an annual ranking of airline quality conducted by Wichita State University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, traveler complaints went up 34 percent in 2015, the highest level since 2000.

Best Airlines In USA

Award Emblem: Top 6 Best Airlines in the U.S.

That report showed consumers were most frequently complaining about problem flights, which is a broad category that can include delays and cancellations.

The report itself was based on information from the U.S. Department of Transportation, which ranks airlines in the USA based on factors such as how often they’re on-time, baggage handling, bumping passengers, and complaints that are filed with the government.

No one wants to have a negative flying experience, and some airlines in America are better than others. In some cases, there are major airlines in the US that are significantly better than their rivals. This ranking highlights some of the best airlines in the U.S. based on a wide variety of factors, some of which will be detailed below.

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AdvisoryHQ’s List of the Top 6 Best Airlines in the U.S.

List is sorted alphabetically (click any of the airline names below to go directly to the detailed review section for that airline):


Top 6 Best Airlines in the U.S. | Brief Comparison

Top Airlines in America

Base City

Key Advantages

Alaska Airlines

Seattle, Washington

Does well in terms of performance and the fewest delays compared to other airlines in the U.S.

Hawaiian Airlines

Honolulu, Hawaii

Excels in terms of fewest cancellations and delays

Delta

Atlanta, Georgia

Features innovative technology like the Fly Delta App

JetBlue

Queens, New York

Continuously tops J.D. Power’s customer satisfaction rankings

Southwest

Dallas, Texas

Low-cost carrier offers the “Transfarency” program to eliminate hidden and unnecessary fees

Virgin America

San Francisco, California

Frequently ranked as the number one airline in North America

Table: Top 6 Best Airlines in the U.S. | Above list is sorted alphabetically



How Are Airlines in the USA Ranked?

There are a wide variety of factors that might be considered when ranking the best airlines in the U.S. and comparing major airlines in the U.S. To rank airline companies in the USA, the following are some criteria that might be considered:

On-time and delay statistics:

Air travel is increasing in volume, and it’s placing higher demands on airline companies in the USA and globally. Despite these challenges, to be ranked as one of the best airlines, it’s essential that airlines in America strive to remain on-time and cancel as few flights as possible.

Airlines In USA

Image source: Pixabay

Customer service:

Customer service starts from the time someone books a flight until they get their luggage at their destination. The best airlines are able to not only make sure as many of their flights can be on-time as possible; they also have strong customer service teams and are dedicated to making sure customers are pleased with every step of their travel experience.

Safety:

Safety is also an important consideration when ranking top airlines. This doesn’t just mean looking at major incidents, but also more minor safety concerns, such as how turbulence is handled.

Some other factors that might be considered when selecting top airlines and the best airlines in the US include baggage fees, onboard amenities, and extra charges that travelers might incur, or whether or not there are complimentary services available to customers.

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AdvisoryHQ’s Selection Methodology

What methodology does AdvisoryHQ use in selecting and finalizing the credit cards, financial products, firms, services, and products that are ranked on its various top rated lists?

Please click here “AdvisoryHQ’s Ranking Methodologies” for a detailed review of AdvisoryHQ’s selection methodologies for ranking top rated credit cards, financial accounts, firms, products, and services.


Detailed Review – Top Ranking Best Airlines in the U.S.

Below, please find the detailed review of each of the top airlines. We have highlighted some of the factors that allowed these major airlines in the U.S. to score so well in our selection ranking.



Alaska Airlines Review


Alaska Airlines is one of the major airlines in the US and is frequently ranked as one of the best airlines in the USA by media outlets and travel resources.

The company has been in business for more than 75 years, and they strive to operate with sustainability in mind, while also delivering innovation in technology and customer service.

For example, Alaska Airlines was the first North American airline to sell tickets online and the first in the world to let customers check in online.

Key Factors That Led to Our Ranking of This as One of the Best Airlines in the USA

Reasons Alaska Airlines is included on this list are detailed below.

Safety Rating

Some of the key safety rating factors detailed on AirlineRatings.com regarding Alaska Airlines, one of the best airlines, include:

  • This pick for one of the top airlines has a 7/7 safety rating, and the airline is IOSA certified. This is an international evaluation system that looks at the management and control systems of an airline.
  • The airline is FAA endorsed, and it has maintained a fatality-free record for the past ten years
  • This pick for one of the leading airlines in the U.S. meets all 8 International Civil Aviation Organization parameters.

Wall Street Journal

There are a variety of media outlets and organizations that rank and review the top airlines and the best airlines in the US. One such outlet is The Wall Street Journal, and in 2015, the media outlet ranked Alaska Airlines as the best airline in the country on the Middle Seat scorecard.

Alaska scored well because of their performance regarding on-time arrivals, and because they had the fewest extreme flight delays and customer complaints.

One of the reasons Alaska can score so well among major airlines in the US in terms of performance is because they invested in satellite technology which allows them to fly in the fog and bad weather of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

Other Strengths

Alaska Airlines is the number one airline in North America based on performance for several consecutive years, and in addition, this pick for one of the best airlines in America also does well in other areas.

One is customer service. Skytrax has Alaska with a 7/10 rating based on real customer reviews, and some of the specific points customers say are best about the airline include seat comfort and staff service.

Alaska is also one of the airlines offering the most Wi-Fi accessibility across fleets, and they have a well-rated business class section.

Major Airlines In US

Image Source: Airlinequality.com

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Delta Review


Delta is one of the biggest airlines in America and is also frequently named as one of the best airlines and top airline companies in the USA. Delta started in 1924, and according to their website, more than 160 million travelers fly Delta each year. This pick for one of the top airlines in the USA is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia.

Key Factors That Led to Our Ranking of This as One of 2017’s Best Airlines

Among airline companies in the USA and major airlines in the US, the following are specifics of why Delta is included on this list of top airlines.

Most Admired Companies

Delta was recently included in Fortune Magazine’s ranking of the Most Admired Companies for the fourth year in a row. It was rated number one on the airline industry list for the sixth time in the past seven years.

The Fortune ranking looks at top executives and company leaders across all industries and then ranks the ten companies they most admired based on a range of criteria, including innovative, people management, and reputation.

Airline rankings are based on a survey of industry executives from around the world, boards of directors, and analysts.  

Best Airlines

Image Source: Delta

Yahoo! Ranking

As mentioned above, there are quite a few media outlets that rank the best airlines in the U.S. and the top airline companies in the USA. One outlet is Yahoo! They publish a yearly list of the best airlines, and on this ranking, Delta came in at number three.

The information used to compile this list is based on the annual Airline Quality Rating Report, which looks at the major airlines in the U.S. with a focus on criteria including bumping passengers, on-time performance, and mishandling luggage.

Delta was ranked number three based on several points including the fact that they have the third-highest on-time arrival rate (85.9%) and the third-lowest number of mishandled bags (2.08 per 1,000 passengers each month).

Innovation

Delta is one of the best airlines in the U.S. for a number of reasons, one of which is their dedication to innovation designed to ultimately improve the customer experience.

One example of this innovation in action is the introduction of a recently updated mobile app. The Fly Delta App lets customers use one of the industry’s leading wayfinding maps, and they can manage and access their boarding passes and flight information even without Wi-Fi or a cellular connection.

The wayfinding tool includes interactive maps for 20 airports with turn-by-turn walking directions, and it also includes 3D Touch quick actions on the iPhone version of the app offers users shortcuts to do things like booking a flight and checking flight status.



Hawaiian Airlines Review


Hawaiian Airlines, consistently ranked as one of the best airlines in the USA, is based in Honolulu. Hubs include the Honolulu International Airport and the Kahului Airport.

This pick for one of the best airlines in America was founded as Inter-Island Airways in 1929, and it flies to 28 destinations with a fleet size of 49. Hawaiian Airlines is the eighth largest among commercial airlines in America.

Key Factors That Led to Our Ranking of This as One of the Best Airlines in the USA

Among major airlines in the US, the following are specifics of why Hawaii is ranked as one of the best airlines in America.

Punctuality

The U.S. Department of Transportation releases a monthly Air Travel Consumer Report that highlights 16 of the major airlines in the US. On the most recently released report, Hawaiian Airlines again was the top carrier in the country based on punctuality in 2016.

That was the 13th year in a row Hawaiian received that honor, and they averaged a 91.1% on-time performance rating in 2016. They exceeded the industry average for the year by nearly ten percentage points, and for the month of December (2016) this pick for one of the top airlines had an 85.1% on-time performance rating.

Hawaiian Airlines was also named as the world’s most punctual airline in 2016 by OAG, which is an air travel intelligence organization.

Cancellations

Hawaiian Airlines isn’t just one of the best airlines regarding general punctuality. They are also included on this list of the best airlines in America and best airline companies in the USA because they perform well regarding cancellations as well.

According to the same Department of Transportation report cited above, this pick for one of the best airlines in the US had the fewest flight cancellations in the country, with 0.1% or nine cancellations out of every 6,347 flights.

Skytrax Awards

In 2016, Hawaiian Airlines received some of the top available honors from the Skytrax World Airlines Awards. It was recognized as the recipient of the “Best Airline Staff—North America” award, which is a recognition of excellence across all areas of customer service.

The World Airline Awards are managed by Skytrax Research of London, and they are one of the most prestigious organizations in terms of recognizing the best airlines.

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JetBlue Review


JetBlue is a leader among airlines in America and is frequently ranked as one of the top airlines for a number of reasons. JetBlue features flights to more than 90 destinations.

JetBlue is considered a low-cost airline; focus airports include JFK, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Logan International Airport, Orlando International Airport, and Long Beach International Airport. It’s the sixth largest among airlines in the U.S. and is headquartered in Queens, New York.

Key Factors That Led to Our Ranking of This as One of 2017’s Best Airlines in the USA

Primary reasons JetBlue is ranked as one of the leading airlines in the U.S. are cited below.

Customer Bill of Rights

JetBlue, one of the top airlines and ranked as one of the best airlines in the US, remains firmly committed to customer protection. As part of that, they’ve created something called the “Customer Bill of Rights.” The objective of this bill of rights is to make a simple, pleasant experience for customers.

The Bill of Rights highlights what customers can expect, in definitive terms, if something doesn’t necessarily go as planned.

It details how compensation, canceling, and other issues will be handled and makes sure customers understand how the company handles problems that may arise.

Best Fare Guarantee

While it’s not discussed as frequently, just as important for many customers ranking the top airlines are the fees they charge.

JetBue has something called the Best Fare Guarantee. This outlines their dedication to always having the lowest JetBlue fares on the jetblue.com website. If a customer does happen to find a lower JetBlue fare someone else bought on the same day they purchase they ticket, the company will give them a $100 credit that can be used for JetBlue travel.

This is in addition to other unique programs, such as frequent low fare flash sales advertised on social media.

J.D. Power Ranking

In mid-2016, J.D. Power and Associates released their ranking of the best airlines in America, and topping the list was JetBlue. JetBlue ranked the highest in the low-cost carrier segment of the airline industry for the 11th year in a row, with a score of 790.

For the 12th consecutive year, JetBlue also performed highest in the study.

The North America Airline Satisfaction Study looks at passenger satisfaction among business and leisure travelers among major airline companies in the USA. The study is based on responses from more than 10,000 passengers who flew on one of the major airlines in the US between March 2015 and March 2016.



Southwest Airlines Review


Among airlines in the USA and airline companies in the USA, Southwest continuously excels. Southwest Airlines was founded nearly 40 years ago with the mission of helping people enjoy the lowest possible fares. They describe their mission as a dedication to providing the highest quality of customer service delivered with warmth, friendliness, pride, and company spirit.

Key Factors That Led to Our Ranking of This as One of the Top Airlines in the USA

Specific reasons Southwest is often ranked as one of the best airlines in the US are highlighted below.

Customer Satisfaction

As with JetBlue, Southwest was also included on the J.D. Power customer satisfaction ranking for last year in the category of low-cost carriers. Southwest Airlines received a score of 789 and also showed improvements in customer satisfaction from the previous year.

This improvement was across seven factors, and Southwest did best in terms of improving their aircraft score and their flight crew score, which went up 15 points and 12 points respectively over the previous year.

Again, the 2016 North America Airline Satisfaction Study looks at passenger satisfaction among airlines in America to find the best airlines in the US.

Airline Quality Report

Another report that looks at airlines in the USA and ranks the best airlines in the US is the Airline Quality Report. The most recent report ranked 13 major airlines in the US, and Southwest was one of the best airlines in the U.S., having improved their scores over the previous year.

Southwest was ranked sixth for the second year in a row and improved in all of the variables measured.

This improvement included on-time arrivals, the rate of customer complaints, involuntary denied boarding, and mishandled baggage.

Transfarency

Currently, there tends to be a sense of mistrust among customers with the airline industry and with major airlines in the US. This is largely because of rising (and often hidden) fees passengers are charged, such as excessive baggage fees.

Southwest is working to combat that problem with a program they call “Transfarency.” This means they want to offer low, transparent fares and eliminate all of the extra fees that so many airlines in the U.S. are charging. For example, passengers don’t pay for their first and second check bags, they don’t pay a change fee, and they don’t pay for live TV on board.

Top Airlines

Image Source: Southwest

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Virgin America Review


As one of the best airlines, Virgin America is in the midst of a merger with Alaska Airlines, which will bring together two of the major airlines in the US. Virgin America is now a fully-owned subsidiary of Alaska Air Group, making the combined airline the fifth largest of the major airlines in the US.

Virgin America is ranked separately on this list of the best airlines and leading airlines in the USA because travelers aren’t going to see any major changes to the Virgin America product or experience within the next year, according to the companies.

Key Factors That Led to Our Ranking of This as One of the Best Airlines in the U.S.

Among major airlines in the US, the following are specifics highlighting why Virgin America is included in this ranking of the best airlines in the US and the overall top airlines.  

Airline Quality Rating Report

As with the other names on this list of major airlines in the US that are considered among the best airlines in the US, Virgin America was included on the Airline Quality Rating from Wichita State University.

This is considered the leading statistics-based study of major airline performance in the U.S., and it’s conducted by a team made up of professors at Wichita State University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

On this ranking of airlines in the USA, Virgin America got the number one spot for the fourth year in a row. It ranked number one for the fewest mishandled bags as well, as compared to other airlines in America.

Skytrax Ranking

Virgin excels across quite a few rankings of top airlines and lists of the best airlines, including a list put together by Skytrax. Skytrax named Virgin America the best North American airline for the second year in a row.

Skytrax rankings are based on impressions from more than 19 million travelers from around the world, collected over a year. The survey measures 41 factors ranging from the boarding process to how comfortable the seats are.

Since 2014, Virgin America has shown the biggest improvement in rankings, moving up 21 spots.

Guest Service Commitment

Virgin America takes customer service very seriously, which is likely why they’ve been able to excel as one of the best airlines in the USA and move up in various rankings of the best airlines in America. Part of this is their Guest Service Commitment.

The Guest Service Commitment includes the following:

  • The company offers the lowest fares directly on their website, and they have the most exclusive deals and offers
  • Virgin promises they will promptly notify customers regarding delays, cancellations, and diversions
  • If there are baggage delays, they will strive to have the problem resolved within 24 hours
  • Reservations can be held or canceled without penalty for 24 hours
  • They strive to meet essential needs during long tarmac delays

Conclusion—Top 6 Best Airlines in the U.S.

The airline industry is growing, as is competitiveness, and the hope among most customers is that as more airlines emerge, the quality of service and performance will continue to rise in the industry. In the meantime, the names on this list of airlines in the USA are leaders among major airlines in the US.

Some of the characteristics many of these top airlines share include:

  • Many of these best airlines in the USA have strong customer satisfaction scores from organizations like J.D. Power and Associations.
  • Most of these top airlines included in this ranking of the best airlines in the US are innovators in the industry.
  • The best airlines cited on this ranking of airlines in America tend to offer transparent pricing and low fees.
  • Many of these best airlines in the US score well regarding low numbers of delays and cancellations.


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