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2021 best and worst US airlines named

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2021 best and worst US airlines named
2021 best and worst US airlines named
Written by Harry Johnson

Finding the cheapest airfare is now quite easy for anyone with an internet connection

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  • Cost isn’t all that matters when picking what company to fly with
  • Choosing the wrong airline has the potential to take even more from us
  • This report examines overlooked aspects of air travel to help consumers make more-informed decisions

Airfare costs dropped sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they are starting to rise again as travel picks up, with the average leisure fare at $187 as of March 15. But cost isn’t all that matters when picking what company to fly with; choosing the wrong airline has the potential to take even more from us. For instance, 6 animals died during air transportation in 2020, and four major U.S. airlines had at least one pet fatality.

While critical to consider, such factors often fly under the radar due to our focus on price. But finding the cheapest airfare is now quite easy for anyone with an internet connection, so this report examines those other, overlooked aspects of air travel to help consumers make more-informed decisions.

Industry experts compared the 9 largest U.S. airlines, plus two regional carriers, across 17 important metrics. They range from cancellation and delay rates to baggage mishaps and in-flight comfort. The analysts also considered costs in relation to in-flight amenities for the sake of fairness. For example, it wouldn’t be right to penalize an airline that charges for drinks if its tickets are far cheaper than those from an airline with free in-flight refreshments.

2021’s Best Airlines

CategoryAirline
Best Airline OverallAlaska Airlines
Cheapest AirlineSpirit Airlines
Most Reliable AirlineSouthwest Airlines
Most Comfortable AirlineJetBlue Airways
Best Airline for PetsAlaska Airlines, SkyWest Airlines and Envoy Air
Least Complained-About AirlineEnvoy Air
Safest AirlineAlaska Airlines

Most Reliable Airline: Southwest Airlines has the lowest rate of cancelations, delays, mishandled luggage and denied boardings.

Most Comfortable Airline: JetBlue leads the pack in terms of in-flight experience, offering free amenities such as Wi-Fi, extra legroom, and complimentary snacks and beverages.

Cheapest Airline: Spirit is the best airlines for budget flyers.

Most Pet-Friendly: Three airlines tied for being most pet-friendly, Alaska Airlines, Envoy Air and SkyWest, with no incidents.

Most Satisfactory Airline: Envoy Air had the industry’s lowest consumer-complaint rate in 2020.

Safest Airline: Alaska Airlines was the safest in 2020. The safety runner-up is Envoy Air.

Detailed Scores

The tables below illustrate the number of points that each airline received.

National Airline Scores

MetricMax ScoreAmerican AirlinesDelta Air LinesSouthwest AirlinesUnited AirlinesJetBlue AirwaysFrontier AirlinesHawaiian AirlinesAlaska AirlinesSpirit Airlines
Cancelled Flights6.004.631.283.245.291.550.884.200.004.98
Delays17.003.207.389.246.530.002.893.854.405.54
Mishandled Baggage Reports7.002.374.534.394.055.175.404.663.435.46
Denied Boardings11.007.3611.009.9210.8910.976.5310.9410.539.28
Complaints9.003.694.997.670.002.300.000.003.643.35
Animal Related Incidents5.003.661.72N/A1.95N/AN/A0.005.00N/A
Leg Room2.002.002.002.002.002.000.002.002.000.00
Entertainment Options1.001.001.001.001.001.000.001.001.000.00
Wi-Fi Availability1.000.500.630.630.501.000.000.000.630.50
Complimentary Refreshments1.001.001.001.001.001.000.001.001.000.00
Price10.001.102.623.581.593.408.783.394.369.18
Aviation Incidents & Accidents6.003.233.234.080.913.780.003.023.803.92
Fatal Injuries in Aviation Accidents6.006.006.000.006.006.006.006.006.006.00
Injuries in Aviation Incidents & Accidents6.000.000.600.000.000.600.750.750.750.75
Blocked Middle Seats Policy4.000.004.000.000.000.000.000.002.000.00
Face Masks Availability4.004.004.004.004.000.000.004.004.000.00
Fleet Age4.000.000.000.000.000.004.004.004.004.00
Final Score100.0043.7355.9853.4345.7040.8237.0948.8156.5455.76

Regional Airline Scores

MetricMax ScoreSkyWest AirlinesEnvoy Air
Mainly ServesN/AAmerican, Delta, Alaska and UnitedAmerican
Cancelled Flights6.005.275.53
Delays (3)17.002.153.45
Mishandled Baggage Reports7.002.700.26
Denied Boardings11.008.360.07
Complaints9.008.828.91
Animal Related Incidents5.005.005.00
Leg Room2.000.002.00
Entertainment Options (2)1.000.001.00
Wi-Fi Availability (2)1.000.500.50
Complimentary Refreshments (2)1.001.001.00
Price10.002.040.00
Aviation Incidents & Accidents6.004.683.89
Fatal Injuries in Aviation Accidents6.006.006.00
Injuries in Aviation Incidents & Accidents6.000.750.75
Blocked Middle Seats Policy4.002.000.00
Face Masks Availability4.002.004.00
Fleet Age4.000.004.00
Final Score100.0051.2646.36
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