The Best And Worst U.S. Airlines, Ranked

The Best And Worst U.S. Airlines, Ranked
Photo: GagliardiPhotography, Shutterstock

This morning, the Wall Street Journal released its annual ranking of major U.S. airlines, basing its decision on factors like the number of on-time arrivals, cancelled flights, and delays (and using 2019 flight data, available from the U.S. Department of Transportation). Somehow, ranking below even low cost-carriers like Frontier and Spirit, WSJ named American Airlines the single worst airline in 2019″which may or may not come as a surprise. In three of the last five years, AA has also ranked last.

What makes American such a shitty airline? Well, as reporter Scott McCartney writes, American averaged 159 cancellations a day. Let’s compare that to Delta, which ranked number one and averaged just 36 cancellations a day in 2019. AA also mishandled bags nearly twice as often as Delta last year and bumped 15,000 passengers across its flights, while Delta bumped just nine.

At least some of AA’s delays and cancellations can be explained by the dispute between the airline and its mechanics during the autumn and winter of last year. (It should also be noted that AA is the largest airline, based on the number of total travellers.)

Meanwhile, Delta earned its spot, in part, by cancelling the fewest flights and bumping the fewest passengers in 2019 of all major U.S. airlines. (Delta also ranked number one in both 2017 and 2018.) Alaska and Southwest followed Delta in the rankings, coming in second and third, respectively. Alaska flights experienced the fewest “extreme” delays and Southwest ranked the best for the fewest 2-hour tarmac delays and customer complaints.

Below, the list of overall rankings, courtesy of WSJ:

  1. Delta: ranked the best in on-time arrivals, cancelled flights, and involuntary bumping.
  2. Alaska: ranked the best in extreme delays.
  3. Southwest: ranked the best in two-hour tarmac delays.
  4. Allegiant: ranked the best in mishandled baggage.
  5. Spirit: ranked the worst in customer complaints.
  6. JetBlue: ranked the worst in extreme delays.
  7. Frontier: ranked the worst in on-time arrivals.
  8. United: ranked second-to-last in two-hour tarmac delays and mishandled baggage.
  9. American: ranked the worst in cancelled flights, two-hour tarmac delays, mishandled baggage, and involuntary bumping.

To view the rest of the results, be sure to take a look at the here’s our guide on what to ask for in terms of cold, hard cash.