The Points Guy (TPG) announced this week that Delta Air Lines has been named the number one airline in America in its third annual Best Airlines Report for 2019. TPG ranked airlines in the United States, from best to worst, using a new strategic method that reflects the changing aviation landscape, with brand new categories like cancellations, bumps and revenue passenger miles. The traditional study-specific criteria and data including customer satisfaction, cabin comfort, timeliness, lost baggage, lounges and more have been factored in as well.
Alaska Airlines — ranked number one the past two years — followed Delta's first place standing, with Southwest, United and Hawaiian rounding out the top five ranking. By contrast, American Airlines, JetBlue, Allegiant and Frontier were the lowest ranked airlines in the last twelve months, with Frontier plummeting five spots down from 2018.
"It's been a milestone year for aviation in America, and this report directly reflects the changes in the industry and consumer preferences with shake-ups in our top rankings," said Brian Kelly, CEO and Founder of The Points Guy. "Our team has worked tirelessly to create this preeminent resource for ranking domestic airlines based on what matters to travelers now."
Best Airlines Report for 2019 results are highlighted below:
- Delta (up two)
- Alaska (down one)
- Southwest (down one)
- United (same spot)
- Hawaiian (up four)
- American (same spot)
- JetBlue (up one)
- Allegiant (same spot)
- Spirit (down two)
- Frontier (down five)
Key takeaways include:
- Delta Comes Out on Top: Delta was the big winner this year, with 92.7% of planes arriving on time, the largest network of lounges and cities served, and several other strong suits. With its sheer number of lounges, they were the clear winner for its lounge network, and only bumped 32 passengers out of more than 136 million Delta fliers.
- Hawaiian Makes a Major Comeback: Hawaiian had the largest rebound this year (up four spots) and was the undisputed ruler when it came to getting flights out and on time, with an overall 6.4% of flights delayed for 30 or fewer minutes for the period examined. That was compared to an average of 15.6% for all 10 airlines overall and 24.6% for the category loser, Frontier.
- Alaska's Still Got It: Although Alaska went down a ranking, they were a top dog for its loyalty program because it offered the best value and good perks for all three tiers of membership. They were also the only airline that had power outlets at every seat.
- You Can't Beat Southwest's Customer Service: Southwest has a reputation for great service and loyal customers, and it showed this year despite their one ranking drop to 3rd place. They had only 602 complaints despite flying more domestic passengers than any other airline — over 160 million passengers in the period that were looked at.
- JetBlue Rules Comfort: With its widely lauded free, ubiquitous and excellent Fly-Fi Wi-Fi, ever-present seatback screens, generous seat pitch and relatively young fleet, JetBlue had the most comfortable cabins over the US, allowing the airline to climb up on in the rankings this year.
- Frontier, Spirit and Allegiant Have Some Catching Up to Do: Frontier, Spirit and Allegiant all share their last place ribbon in bare-bones onboard offerings. Frontier also ranked last (and five down from last year) due to its enviable on-time record (nearly one out every four flights was delayed), lackluster cabin features, habit of bumping paying passengers and high rate of customer complaints. Additionally, although Spirit had the best ratio of fare cost per mile flown for paying passengers, their 28-inch average seat pitch was named the stingiest. And, Allegiant wound up at the bottom in another category because it didn't even have a loyalty program.
Timeliness, comfort, customer satisfaction and pricing were just a few important factors that represented the biggest chunk of the score this year. TPG examined data from the US Department of Transportation (DOT), including the number of passenger complaints against each airline filed with the DOT as well as the number of reports of lost luggage each airline had. Additionally, in consulting the airlines' financials, combing through publicly available fleet data, the experts at TPG were able to factor all those elements — and more — into the rankings for 2019's report. Each factor was weighed separately before combining all figures for an overall score, then ranked the airlines from one to 10.
The full list of factors and weighting was as follows:
- Timeliness (15%): Percentage of arrivals and departures that were delayed.
- Cabin Features (15%): Wi-Fi availability, free Wi-Fi and free messaging, seatback IFE, average. domestic economy seat pitch and width, power outlets at seats and average age of the domestic fleet.
- Cancellations (10%): Percentage of canceled flights.
- Route Network (10%): Cities served in the US.
- Ticket Value (10%): How much airlines made from customers compared to how many miles they flew them.
- Fees (10%): How much airlines charge for extra checked bags and flight changes.
- Frequent Flyer Program (10%): Average points valuations and quality of perks for loyalty programs.
- Customer Satisfaction (10%): Number of complaints filed with the Department of Transportation.
- Lost Baggage (5%): Number of reports of misplaced luggage.
- Lounges (3%): Total number of lounges, number of premium lounges, number of destinations with lounges, plus lounge membership fees and day fees.
- Bumps (2%): Percentage of passengers unwillingly denied boarding.
For a year-over-year comparison, TPG's 2018 Best Airlines Report can be viewed here.
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