The USA’s No. 1 airline is … Alaska Airlines.
That’s the finding from The Points Guy website, one of a growing number of outfits that now issue annual rankings of U.S. or global carriers.
Alaska Airlines, which is in the process of integrating merger partner Virgin America, edged out runner-up Southwest and third-place finisher Delta to win the top spot in The Points Guy’s ratings.
“Alaska scored consistently well across a number of key criteria, ranking in the top three for airfare, on-time arrivals, customer satisfaction, baggage and a best-in-the-industry frequent-flier program,” The Points Guy website said in a statement announcing its rankings.
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For Southwest, its rise to No. 2 came after a mediocre showing in the prior year.
“Southwest ranked a surprisingly low #6 last year, but made a major comeback to this year’s second place spot due to gains in two key areas — lower airfare and an increase in the size of its already sizable route network,” The Points Guy statement said. “The airline continues to rate at the top of two other categories — customer satisfaction and baggage & change fees — due to its highly popular policies of not charging fees to change or cancel flights, and giving all its customers two free checked bags.”
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To come up with its 2018 airline rankings, The Points Guy said it used “a strategic methodology based on specific criteria and data, evaluating on-time arrival rates, passenger complaints, cabin comfort, baggage issues, and much more.”
“We take pride in the data we’ve assembled from sources across the industry and largely based all criteria on what we believe regular passengers care about most. Alaska Airlines, with Southwest and Delta to follow, are clearly doing it right,” The Points Guy founder Brian Kelly said.
While the number of airline rankings has grown during the past decade, Alaska has consistently performed well in most of them.
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Alaska Airlines topped Southwest for the top spot in J.D. Power’s most-recent ratings of U.S. airlines. Alaska Airlines also finished No. 1 in the most recent Airline Quality Rating report that’s issued jointly by the Wichita State and Embry Riddle universities. And Alaska Airlines was the No. 2-ranked U.S. carrier for 2017 in the annual World Airline Awards from Skytrax. Globally, Alaska Airlines ranked No. 36 in the Skytrax rankings, which give the U.S. edge in the Delta (32nd globally). And, in yet another of the airline ratings, Alaska Airlines finished third in the 2017 rankings from Travel + Leisure magazine. Virgin America finished No. 1 there.
As you would expect, Alaska Airlines lauded its finish in The Points Guy’s ratings.
“This award is a credit to our amazing, kind-hearted people who provide genuine, caring service for our guests every day,” Ben Minicucci, Alaska’s chief operating officer, said in The Points Guy’s statement. “We’re focused on creating an airline people love, so even when things don’t go perfectly, our people are empowered to make things right. Sometimes that makes all the difference.”
One possible surprise in the ratings might the relatively high placing for Frontier, an airline that typically fares poorly in such ratings.
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The Points Guy said Frontier benefited from a change in scoring methodology and from “noticeable improvements in mishandled baggage” and an expanding route network.
Another surprise could be at the bottom with Hawaiian Airlines, a carrier typically scores well in most service critiques. The Points Guy acknowledged that, saying “some people might think it odd to find Hawaiian Airlines in last place.”
“The primary reason is that our study puts a lot of weight on both airfare and the size of an airline’s route network, and Hawaiian doesn’t do well in either of those areas,” The Points Guy said. “(O)ne could argue it’s not fair to penalize the carrier for the fact that it’s focused on a specific region. But even a theoretically ‘perfect’ airline that was the most comfortable in the world with the greatest customer service and best on-time arrival rate wouldn’t rank that highly to most people if it didn’t fly to where the average customer needs to go.”
Scroll down for the overall rankings:
1. Alaska Airlines (Last year: 1)
2. Southwest Airlines (6)
3. Delta Air Lines (7)
4. United Airlines (2)
5. Frontier Airlines (9)
6. American Airlines (5)
7. Spirit Airlines (10)
8. JetBlue (4)
9. Hawaiian Airlines (8)
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