My buddy Paul Thompson wrote a popular post for Best Life this week about the most unreliable airline in North America.

He was using data from J.D. Power’s 2021 North America Airline Satisfaction Study, which was published back in May and the study was fielded from August 2020 through March 2021. According to J.D. Power, “The North America Airline Satisfaction Study measures passenger satisfaction with airline carriers in North America based on performance in eight factors (in alphabetical order): aircraft; baggage; boarding; check-in; cost and fees; flight crew; in-flight services; and reservation. The study measures passenger satisfaction among both business and leisure travelers and is based on responses from 2,309 passengers. Passengers needed to have flown on a major North America airline within the past month of completing a survey.”

Based on a 1,000-point scale, here were the results:
Delta Air Lines: 860
Southwest Airlines: 856
JetBlue Airways: 849
Alaska Airlines: 835
United Airlines: 810
American Airlines: 791
Air Canada: 759

The industry average was 820.

These results are not surprising based on the timeframe. However, after Delta’s summer meltdown, especially with their long call center wait times, I’m not sure these results would stay the same, except for Air Canada remaining the most unreliable airline in North America after they (and WestJet) refused to give customers refunds after they canceled their flights due to COVID. They left a bad taste in Americans’ and Canadians’ mouths. I’ve had my own bad experiences with Air Canada, like last year when I threatened to file a DOT complaint against them and earlier this summer, which you can read about here: Air Canada Has Sunk To a New Low: Can You Believe They Are Pulling This Trick? Fortunately, they finally did start issuing refunds.

Who would you rank as the best and worst airline in North America?

14 Comments On "The Most Unreliable Airline in North America?"
  1. K. millard|

    Air Canada was late in bringing me home from NYC. They admitted as much in their notes . Another note came claiming an even later new time. Then they wrote that the technical problem could not be fixed. After a while ( 4 hours had already passed while we waited at the airport ) we were notified that a new plane would arrive to get us.( same flight number ). At this time they denied that we were late at all.

  2. Marlene Zimbal|

    I am happy with Southwest Airlines. I have flown with them a long time. Recently flew with them and my flight back home kept getting delayed so went to airport ticket counter to ask if I could get on an earlier flight was able to do it thanks to agent wrote a good review and got a letter from a manager with a voucher for a future flight which demonstrates good customer service

  3. Pat|

    SO where do I find the &^$^ Worst airline name ?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      It’s at the bottom. Air Canada

  4. Marcia Frost|

    Air Canada has caused me many headaches, but how can Spirit not be on this list?!

  5. Paul Hempel|

    Hi Johnny,

    I’m puzzled as how Air Canada is considered the most unreliable versus the lowest in customer satisfaction. There is a distinct difference. I too had the same experience as you when I cancelled a flight within 24 hours and was dismayed as you were that seat selection charges were not refunded, but didn’t have to publish it in a newsletter to get a refund. Granted it should have never happened but it was resolved easily.

    Likewise for Covid refunding, you must be aware of difference between Canadian and US regulatory authorities and what is and isn’t allowed. The passenger bill of rights is unfortunately a slow work in progress here in Canada, so comparing the airlines in this area in both countries can be like apples and oranges. And perhaps a bit disingenuous when many American-based airlines also tried to find ways of not completely refunding fares at the outset.

    We just completed our first flight in almost two years with an Air Canada direct flights between Ottawa and Vancouver, direct flights on their 787, and there wasn’t anything unreliable about either flight from check-in to luggage pick-up. And that’s flying economy with zone 7 boarding, and treated equally. We were also privileged to be among a number of Canadian Paralympians returning from Tokyo.

    What would be more valuable to your readers is not a tabloid-like headline but rather the specific measurements that led to the ratings for each airline because reliability is much more than non-refunding issues. The headline from JD Powers says: Attentive Flight Crews, Flexible Fares and Charges during Pandemic Drive Record High Customer Satisfaction with North America Airlines, J.D. Power Finds

    Without access to the specific ratings to compare airlines, we are left with only your assessment of what makes an airline unreliable, rather than JD Power’s findings of record high customer satisfaction. Perhaps a more extensive examination and commentary would enlighten your readers.

    1. Gary Allen|

      Well said, Mr Hempel.

    2. Johnny Jet|

      Hi Paul,

      Good advice. I will add it to my list. I could probably do a podcast about it since writing would take too long.

  6. Maria Barrera-Oro|

    Worst airline in the US: American Airlines. ( recent trip 2 weeks ago from Costa Rica to BWI.
    Best but 2 years ago was Southwest.

  7. MarkB|

    Air Canada without question. Our one and only (and last ever) trip with Air Canada involved flights between Seattle and Toronto. AC botched our flights both way by assigning us seats in the back of the plane rather than in the Premium Economy which we paid for. We had to battle with customer service to get what we paid for. On the first flight we ended up in row 28 (not 15 which we had booked) and on the return we finally were given center and window in row 13 not the aisle seats originally booked. Such service doesn’t deserve a repeat.

  8. Paul Jacobelli|

    Like the time Air Canada cancelled my flight after making us wait 2 hours. They said there was a terrible storm in NYC. Fine, except I was flying to Chicago and it was a bright blue sunny summer day in Toronto.

    The counter agent then leaned forward and whispered to me that there were not enough people on the flight to make it viable. Like they didn’t know that a few hours earlier and couldn’t put me on another airline. I missed my business meeting scheduled for the next AM.

  9. Patrick B|

    • Southwest Airlines. Reliable, humerus, and always willing to work with you. Free 2 checked bags is a plus!

    • Jet Blue. Always late. Unwilling to compensate or work with passengers. Rude flight attendants.

  10. Sanford Allison|

    The worst is spirit first refused voucher and refund during pandemic.Then gave voucher —that expired when I tried to use. Put this airline on the bottom

  11. Patty|

    Love flying Southwest! Their check in process is easy, gate agents are very accommodating and their flight attendants are hilarious!! (Most of them anyway).
    Worst for me was Delta. Always canceling or changing their flight at the last minute.
    JetBlue is beginning to do the same since the Emergence of the Covid.

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