The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) just released their annual report of the best and worst U.S. airlines of 2023. Many, myself included, found the results surprising. But like most best and worst reports, they’re somewhat arbitrary. RELATED: The 10 Worst Airports in the U.S. for Connecting Flights
According to the WSJ, they ranked “nine major U.S. airlines on seven equally weighted operations metrics: on-time arrivals, flight cancellations, extreme delays, baggage handling, tarmac delays, involuntary bumping and complaints.” Note: Hawaiian Airlines was excluded “given its regional niche.”
9. JetBlue Airways
Coming in last was JetBlue. WSJ says they “finished last in four categories: on-time arrivals, canceled flights, delays longer than 45 minutes and tarmac delays.” JetBlue of course, blames its problems on “New York City airspace challenges, including weather disruptions and air-traffic control issues.” But I think everyone knows there’s more to it than that.
8. Frontier Airlines
The Denver-based budget airline came in second to last. According to the report, “Travelers had the most gripes with Frontier, which averaged 38.5 complaints per 100,000 passengers—four times the average rate across the nine carriers surveyed.” Nearly one-third of Frontier complaints related to flight problems, while 18.4% dealt with refunds. This should be no surprise since Frontier is known for having super low fares but ridiculously high ancillary fees including a $99 fee for carry-on baggage. Their questionable sales tactics was the inspiration for this story: Don’t Fly Frontier Airlines Unless You Know This
7. Spirit Airlines
As you might have guessed, Spirit Airlines, which has similar sales techniques to Frontier, came in seventh.
6. United Airlines
United Airlines came in second, which is two spots lower then last year’s report. It ranked eighth in cancellations and in baggage handling.
5. American Airlines
American Airlines ranked fifth and there wasn’t any explanation but I can totally see it since I fly them often. American is a good airline but they’re not great.
4. Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines came in fourth, which is a little surprising especially after their epic meltdown at the end of 2022 and beginning of 2023. But they must have recovered just in time for this high ranking.
3. Allegiant Air
Coming in at number three is budget carrier Allegiant Air, which was the biggest surprise to me. According to the WSJ, “Allegiant also scored high marks by not involuntarily bumping a single passenger from its flights and by ensuring its flights took off. The airline canceled more than 4% of its flights in 2022, bringing that rate below 1% in 2023. Although it climbed in five rankings categories and stayed in the same spot in two others compared with 2022, the airline ranked sixth in on-time arrivals and delays longer than 45 minutes.”
2. Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines came in second for the second year in a row. Alaska finished with the lowest cancellation rate, at under 1%. According to the WSJ, “Alaska could have tied or overtaken Delta had it been better at baggage handling, where it ranked seventh.”
1. Delta Air Lines
That’s right, Delta Air Lines is back at the top. It is Delta’s sixth win in the past seven years in the Wall Street Journal’s 16th annual airline scorecard. The Atlanta based airline is known as being the best run airline in the U.S.
A funny thread on Reddit (embedded below) titled, “Thoughts on The WSJ’s domestics airlines travel rankings?” had over 275 comments. The top comments I totally agree with:
“Allegiant is 3?????” ~ syxbit
“Spirit ahead of JetBlue is a real head scratcher for me.” ~ Decillionaire
“Honestly, Alaska blows the doors off vs. their competition.” ~ Podtastix
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