Which Airlines in the United States Are Considered the Best? The Points Guy has released its sixth annual Best Airlines Report, and Delta Airlines has taken first place this year (for the fourth year in a row). Everyone considering a flight across the United States should be familiar with the top airlines regarding the dependability, cost, and loyalty, in addition to the overall experience.
This ranking only applies to domestic flights within the United States and has no bearing on any international routes operated by these airlines. In fact, Qatar Airways was recently named the best global airline of the year for 2022, based on a separate metric.
Airlines operating in the United States were ranked from best to worst for this analysis based on customer satisfaction, cabin comfort, on-time records, data on lost luggage, and lounge quality. The rankings also consider “the various components of a customer’s journey,” ranging from “ticketing to baggage delivery and even earning incentives for future visits.” The following are the top seven domestic airlines serving the United States:
Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines is ranked first among American airlines despite being ranked No. 30 globally. It boasts one of the world’s largest fleets, with 5,400 daily flights to 325 locations in 52 countries. Atlanta Hartfield-Jackson Airport (ATL), which serves as Delta’s primary hub, is the busiest in the world due to the airline.
Travelers can rely on Delta to deliver them to their destinations because delays and cancellations are less likely with the airline. Along with having an extensive network, Delta excels at providing access to airport lounges, offering excellent cabin amenities, and, most importantly, being trustworthy. In the Skytrax World Airline Awards 2021 survey, Delta also received top grades for handling COVID-19 and passenger security. The affordability of Delta’s services is one area where they fall short, but the higher charges come with superior care.
With American Express as a partner, the Delta SkyMiles rewards program offers a variety of travel benefits. Additionally, it offers benefits like an annual companion certificate that allows you to invite a buddy. With Delta, you already have a wide range of locations to pick from, but alliances with other major airlines like Virgin Atlantic, China Airlines, and Korean Air expand your options even more.
JetBlue’s brand has long been synonymous with comfortable aircraft travel. The Queens-based airline ranks 32 internationally and 2 in the U.S. JetBlue’s flights go to local locations, including Mexico, the Caribbean, and a few Central and South American communities.
JetBlue’s in-flight amenities are unmatched. You can indulge yourself in completely reclined seats and on-demand meal service in business class, sometimes known as “Mint” on JetBlue. Fly-Fi is available on all JetBlue flights, allowing you to stay connected at 35,000 feet. JetBlue and Amazon collaborate to enable customers to access the catalog of Amazon Prime movies and T.V. episodes.
Travelers also highly regard JetBlue because it is setting the industry standard for minimizing its environmental impact. JetBlue is the first airline to reach carbon neutrality on all domestic flights by summer 2020.
The TrueBlue program allows up to seven travelers to pool their points together for prizes, which speeds up the earning process. The achievement of a spending threshold within a calendar year also qualifies you for an upgrade to Mint seats on subsequent flights.
Southwest Airlines, the first low-cost carrier in the United States, is ranked 39th globally. Despite humble beginnings, it’s now the largest domestic airline. Southwest has become one of the most affordable airlines for U.S., Mexico, and Caribbean travel by eliminating business class seats and the “hub system.”
Southwest is not the airline for you if you want to pay more for luxury travel. Southwest offers many perks with your economy class ticket, including two free checked bags and free flight changes up to 10 minutes before departure, which travelers appreciate. All airplanes provide complimentary basic Wi-Fi for email and messaging, or you can pay a little more for full internet access.
Southwest Rapid Rewards is an excellent domestic program if you don’t fly internationally often. Eight trips get you free round-trip airfare. It is comparatively simpler to attain premier-level tiers than other airline reward programs.
The reach of United Airlines is enormous. In addition to its central hub at Chicago O’Hare Airport (ORD), United operates seven additional hubs across the nation, including the airports of San Francisco (SFO), Houston (IAH), and Newark (EWR), to ensure seamless travel with few layovers. Additionally, United travels to more than 110 distinct international locations. This number is increased even further thanks to the Star Alliance alliance, of which United is a founding member. Naturally, the airline’s extensive route network ranks as one of its most remarkable aspects and earns it the No. 60 position in the top 100 list.
The cheapest seating option is Basic Economy, but even a little increase to regular Economy offers some value-added comforts like the ability to pick your own seat and the ability to bring a carry-on bag. Through the United Next program, introduced in June 2021, the passenger experience will significantly improve; the most significant improvement will be an update of the fleet by 2026.
Being a member of the United MileagePlus rewards program enables you to use miles to book flights to virtually any destination around the globe, thanks to the extensive network of United and its partners. One popular criticism of traveling with United is the high additional fees for bag checks and itinerary changes, but if you sign up for elite rewards, you can avoid these costs.
Despite its name, Alaska encompasses much more than just the Last Frontier state. What began as a charter plane business transporting people throughout Alaska has become one of America’s largest airlines, mainly since San Francisco-based Virgin America was purchased in April 2016. Alaska Airlines ranked No. 61 globally, right after United. The carrier primarily connects the West Coast with the remainder of the United States, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Belize. The primary hub was relocated from Anchorage to the Seattle-Tacoma Airport (SEA).
Alaska flights serve Starbucks coffee, Beecher’s artisan cheese, Tim’s Cascade potato chips, and Alaskan Brewing Company beer. You may obtain amenities like more legroom and complimentary alcoholic drinks without paying for a first-class ticket because the airline’s premium class is an excellent step up from Economy but significantly less expensive than first class.
One of the few reward programs that still gives miles for flying is the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan (most miles programs today are points based on how much you spend). Despite Alaska Airlines’ network being less extensive than other major carriers, a wide range of partners worldwide accept miles for travel, including all members of the Oneworld alliance like American Airlines, Qantas, and British Airways.
It should be no surprise that Hawaii has its own airline, given that flying is the only realistic means of travel there. The Honolulu-based business is ranked No. 74 globally, and its flights are mostly dedicated to transporting passengers to and from Hawaii (or for travel between islands). With direct flights to Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, and other Pacific Islands, Hawaiian Airlines doesn’t just fly domestically; it also acts as a gateway to Asia and Oceania. Most major American cities have direct flights to the airline’s hubs on Maui and Oahu.
You probably have a few complaints while traveling to Hawaii. Hawaiian Carriers, however, has some of the most outstanding records among American airlines for timely departures, the fewest cancellations, and baggage management. Additionally, it’s one of the few airlines that still provides complete meals to passengers in economy class with the opportunity to upgrade for a fee. The meals are sourced from Hawaiian businesses, and the menu emphasizes regional cuisine.
The HawaiianMiles frequent flyer program is unquestionably superior if you frequently fly to Hawaii (lucky you!). The limited flight network is less than ideal, although you can utilize JetBlue, Japan Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic points. You may achieve Pualiani Elite status and all of the benefits that come with it, such as free checked bags and seat upgrades, by accruing enough miles in a single calendar year, which isn’t particularly challenging for a place as remote as Hawaii.
American Airlines is the world’s largest airline in terms of fleet size and passengers. Although larger organizations tend to be less affable, travelers nonetheless chose to rank American No. 76 on Skytrax’s ranking of the finest airlines. Although almost every major airport in the U.S. is an American Airlines hub, the company’s headquarters are in Dallas-Fort Worth. American’s 350 domestic and foreign destinations are unmatched.
You can stream anything free using your phone, tablet, or laptop, including movies and T.V. episodes from Apple TV+ and even language-learning software to prepare for an international trip. For the entertainment system, travelers must use their own devices since most American aircraft do not have seatback television screens.
If you hold an AAdvantage credit card from Citibank, earning points on regular transactions is simple. American Airlines AAdvantage rewards program offers practically unlimited travel options, so it would rank among the most well-liked frequent flyer programs. American Airlines points can be redeemed on any Oneworld alliance carrier.
“More people began to travel again as travel restrictions were lifted around the world,” says Brian Kelly, founder of The Points Guy, “airlines faced a mountain of challenges this year, from labor shortages to unfortunate delays, making it a difficult year for air travel.” (As travel restrictions worldwide were lifted, more people began to travel again.)
This ranking of the best U.S. airlines is meant to help travelers plan their next vacation, domestically or internationally. The top seven results revealed several significant insights, including the following:
Delta Air Lines was able to secure the top spot due to several factors, the most important of which were the airline’s expansive lounges and high levels of customer satisfaction—”Delta saw the fewest customer complaints this year with just 1.25 complaints for every 100,000 passengers.” They also only had to rebook two customers out of more than 127 million Delta passengers in 2021, which is an impressive feat given the airline industry’s current state.
Hawaiian Airlines was rated the most reliable for the second year. It has the fewest flight delays and cancellations. “Nearly 90% of Hawaiian’s flights landed on time (within 15 minutes of the scheduled arrival time), and only 264 of the airline’s 60,000+ flights were canceled,” according to the company’s website.
Although Southwest does not serve as many destinations as some other U.S. airlines, its airfares were significantly less expensive than those of the three legacy airlines (American, Delta, and United), and Southwest charged the fewest ancillary fees for checked bags and ticket changes or cancellations. Southwest Airlines has the most affordable fares.
United was the best airline for frequent fliers, with “the broadest portfolio of co-branded credit cards and the greatest number of airline partners for earning and redeeming MileagePlus miles.”
It should be noted that when the amount of legroom is considered, Delta does not receive the highest rankings (or seat pitch, as is customarily measured). Instead, JetBlue ranked seventh on The Points Guy’s list and was named the best airline for legroom in 2022.
On the other hand, Southwest received a good grade for the legroom available and is currently ranked second among the top airlines in the United States by The Points Guy.
My study uncovered a few more significant takeaways about the state of air travel in 2022. The most important takeaway is that customer satisfaction has decreased across the board. Given that higher gasoline prices and increased demand are causing a 20% increase in average airfares, passengers are most concerned about ticket price increases. This is because rising demand and higher fuel prices are driving these increases.
Premium Economy, first, and business class passengers are equally dissatisfied with the food and beverage options; in particular, these passengers want their complimentary drinks reinstated. Economy and primary economy passengers seemed to be enjoying themselves. Their overall satisfaction with the food and beverages increased by 7 points.
So, how do I see things progressing from here? Will the current state of affairs in air travel improve or deteriorate? Airlines should be able to find solutions to their problems with their fleets, crews, and schedules by the end of this summer. However, by that time, the vast majority of passengers will be preoccupied with the cost of a ticket. If the current demand pattern continues, the fuel cost is expected to be a significant factor in determining prices.