Choosing the right airline can make all the difference in the world when you’re traveling. We kind of take it for granted when things go smoothly and throw tantrums when they go awry. We’ve all seen the posts on Instagram and Facebook from friends and celebrities swearing off this airline or the other for its God-awful customer service, inattentive pet care, and uncanny ability to lose luggage.
So what’s the solution? Well, perhaps a little more research is the answer. Most travelers choose an airline based on price but these days you can find quite a few companies offering flights at or around the same cost. This gives customers the opportunity to the right airline by running through a checklist: Will my pet be safe? Do I get a snack on this flight? Is the cost of WiFi already covered in my ticket? If you lose my luggage, will you actually reimburse me?
To make things easier, WalletHub has generated a list of 2017’s Best Airlines comparing the 10 largest airlines in the U.S. plus two regional carriers. WalletHub analyzed U.S. Department of Transportation flight data from 2016 in three different categories in terms of what they’re say are “13” key metrics, but we only counted 11. Each metric was weighted based on a subjective importance determined by WalletHub — cancelled flights, delays (Ugh), mishandled baggage reports, denied boardings, complaints, animal related incident, leg room, entertainment options, WiFi accessibility, complimentary refreshments, and price.
According to WalletHub’s criteria, these are the official rankings supplemented with a few highlights:
12. Frontier: Your wallet will be happy but you might not be. Expect more delays with Frontier than with anyone else.
11. Spirit Airlines: Rated cheapest but worst for cancelled flights and overloaded with customer complaints.
10. Southwest Airlines: Not great in the “cancelled flights” and delays departments but for some reason people don’t complain about it!
9. Hawaiian Airlines: Sub-par all around.
8. ExpressJet Airlines: It’s by far the worst for mis-handled baggage.
7. American Airlines: “A fairly mediocre airline where your bags might get lost.”
6. JetBlue Airways: Rated most comfortable and best for WiFi. But they make it hell to get your money back after lost bags:
5. Virgin America: They reported a terrible score for delays but were otherwise above average.
4. United Airlines: Probably (definitely) don’t put your pets on a United flight.
3. SkyWest Airlines: Stats are pretty impressive on this one.
2. Delta Air Lines: Delta only trails #1 Alaska Airlines overall by about eight points.
1. Alaska Airlines: Rated best for pets, most reliable, and best overall.