Flying comes with plenty of headaches, but those can quickly become migraines depending on the airline you choose.
Spirit Airlines ranks worst among the 10 major U.S. carriers, according to a new study from The Points Guy, with the lowest scores for on-time arrivals, cabin comfort, frequent flyer program and customer satisfaction. Its only redeeming quality: The Florida-based airline offered the lowest fares, which may be enough to convince budget-conscious travelers to choose the carrier.
Frontier was the second-worst airline, with last-place finishes for lost baggage and bag and change fees. But it offered the best deals on airfare, second only to Spirit.
On the other end of the spectrum is Alaska Airlines, which broke into the top four for airfare, on-time arrivals, lost baggage, involuntary bumps, customer satisfaction and frequent flyer program. The only knock on the airline is its relatively small route network, which may expand in the future following its merger with Virgin America.
United, Virgin and JetBlue provided the best cabin comforts, which include seat size, onboard food and in-flight Wi-Fi, among dozens of other amenities. Southwest came in first for customer satisfaction and baggage and change fees. But the airline has higher airfares to make up for those low fees and no premium class seats, which hurt its score for cabin comfort.
Delta ranked seventh overall, despite its reputation as a well-run airline. It does finish in the top three for performance factors: on-time arrivals, customer satisfaction, involuntary bumps, route network and lounges. But Delta has the costliest fares — the most heavily weighted factor — which dragged down its overall ranking.
Other highlights from the study include:
- Southwest had the best score for involuntary bumps.
- JetBlue, Southwest, Frontier and Spirit had the worst scores for lounges.
- Hawaiian had the worst route network, but the highest score for on-time arrivals.
- American Airlines had the top score for route network.
- JetBlue was the least likely to lose your baggage.
The study measured 10 factors, weighted differently: airfare (25 percent); route network (15 percent); bag and change fees (10 percent); on-time arrivals (10 percent); cabin comfort (10 percent); customer satisfaction (10 percent); frequent flyer program (10 percent); lost baggage (5 percent); lounges (3 percent); and involuntary bumps (2 percent).
It looked at the 10 largest airlines by the number of domestic passengers and excluded regional carriers that partner with one or more of the airlines. It also excluded Allegiant Air due to a lack of data. While Alaska Air Group recently completed its acquisition of Virgin America, both were included separately in the ranking because they still operate as two carriers.