Personal finance website WalletHub has revealed the best airlines in the United States based on 2021…

Xackery Irving/Shutterstock

  • Financial website WalletHub has revealed the best and worst US airlines based on data from the Department of Transportation.

  • Delta Air Lines took first place, scoring high in reliability, comfort and customer satisfaction.

  • Southwest ranked dead last, followed by American Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Frontier Airlines.

Personal finance website WalletHub has revealed the best airlines in the United States based on 2021 flight data collected from the US Department of Transportation.

The company ranked 11 carriers from best to worst, including major airlines like American and Southwest, and low-cost carriers like Spirit and Frontier.

Two regional carriers — SkyWest Airlines and Envoy Air — were included because they account for at least 1% of domestic scheduled service and submit data to DOT, according to the company.

WalletHub scored each airline based on 16 metrics in four main categories, including baggage, departures and complaints, animal-related incidents, in-flight comfort and safety. Subcategories included factors such as delays, WiFi availability, legroom, denied boarding, and price.

Although price is a common deal-breaker for many consumers, WalletHub noted that its report examines “overlooked aspects of air travel” to help travelers “make more informed decisions.” However, the company said “in fairness” it considered costs “versus in-flight amenities”.

“For example, it wouldn’t be fair to penalize an airline that charges drinks if its tickets are significantly cheaper than those of an airline that offers free in-flight refreshments,” he explained.

WalletHub took the score of each airline in the four major categories to determine the best and worst carriers in the United States. The scores were based on specific criteria, such as the rate of delays or the number of customer complaints.

Then the company totaled the points from each category to give an overall performance ranking. Delta earned the highest score of 70.48 out of 100, while Southwest came last with just 30.60 points earned.

WalletHub revealed that each metric has a maximum number of available points an airline can earn, and the weight of each and its calculation in the overall score is based on the company’s subjective opinion. However, he said the points were usually awarded “on the basis of common sense”.

In addition to ranking the best airline, the company also presented six other awards, including the cheapest airline, the safest airline, the most reliable airline, the best airline for pets, the least criticized airline and the most comfortable airline.

Delta won the most medals, including being America’s best airline overall, most reliable and tied for safest for animals. Meanwhile, JetBlue and Frontier earned the top spots for comfort and affordability, respectively.

Here’s a look at WalletHub’s best and worst US airlines, along with the individual awards each received.

11. Southwest Airlines

Ashlee D. Smith/Southwest Airlines

Southwest ranked last on WalletHub’s list, bringing up the rear in several categories, including being the least reliable and least secure airline. WalletHub gave Southwest a score of 7.84 out of 50 for reliability, while the best, including Delta and Hawaiian, scored above 30.

The data also showed Southwest’s reliability dropped from the previous year, which scored 26.80. This is likely due in part to the airline’s multi-day collapse in October 2021 which left thousands of passengers stranded.

The airline earned its low safety rating due to an uncontained engine failure in 2018 that resulted in the death of a passenger, which forced WalletHub to deduct points.

10. American Airlines

American planes.Airbus

American ranked second to last on WalletHub’s list, scoring low on reliability, price, and security. According to the data, the carrier suffered at least 50 injured passengers or employees who required medical attention in 2021, resulting in its low safety rating.

Meanwhile, the carrier got a reliability score of 14.24, although it got a higher comfort score of 4 out of 5.

9. Jet Blue Airways

JetBlue A320 plane.Marcus Mainka/Shutterstock

JetBlue was named America’s worst airline by the Wall Street Journal earlier this year due to its poor on-time performance and high number of passenger complaints.

Data from WalletHub yielded similar results, scoring its reliability at 16.52 out of 50, also ranking fourth in terms of customer complaints.

However, not all is bad for JetBlue. The carrier was rated the best airline for onboard comfort, including offering free amenities like Wi-Fi, in-flight entertainment, snacks and drinks. The carrier also offers the most legroom in economy class, Conde Nest Traveler reported.

8. Border Airlines

Border airlinesCarlos Yudica

Frontier ranked low in reliability, with a score of 13.18, and came last in comfort due to a lack of in-flight amenities, such as WiFi or free snacks and drinks.

The carrier also configures its planes with 28 inches of legroom, which is the lowest offered in the United States, according to travel magazine AFAR.

However, Frontier received the highest ranking for affordability, offering consumers the cheapest airfares of any other carrier. Data showed Frontier’s airfare averaged 3.53 cents per mile.

7. United Airlines

A United Airlines plane is seen at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey, USA.ayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

While United ranked low compared to other carriers, it received the third highest reliability score of 26.67 out of 50 and a high comfort score of 4.5 out of 5.

However, its low overall ranking may be due to the high number of passenger complaints. According to DOT data, United had 3,581 complaints in 2021, or 29.73 complaints per 100,000 passengers, WalletHub revealed.

6. Sky West Airlines

A SkyWest Airlines Bombardier CRJ200 aircraft.Heather Dunbar /

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Regional carrier SkyWest, which flies on behalf of United, Delta, American and Alaska, earned high rankings for pet-friendliness and customer satisfaction. Specifically, the carrier received 328 complaints in total, according to DOT data, giving it a rate of 0.92 complaints per 100,000 passengers.

Since Skywest flies for four carriers, WalletHub used the maximum and minimum average scores for each situation to determine the regional carrier’s overall comfort score.

5.Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines A319.Marcus Mainka/Shutterstock

Complementing the top five carriers, Spirit Airlines performed well in 2021 in terms of affordability and safety.

The carrier is the second cheapest airline behind Frontier, with an average airfare of 3.82 cents per mile. Meanwhile, the airline received a rating of 19.99 out of 50 for reliability, which is average compared to other airlines.

Like Frontier, Spirit ranked low in onboard comfort, offering no free in-flight amenities except for a seat and a personal item.

4. Air Envoy

American Eagle regional aircraft.Markus Mainka/Shutterstock

Envoy is a wholly owned subsidiary of American and is one of the most successful operators, according to WalletHub. The airline earned an overall rating of 60.46 out of 100, double Southwest’s rating of 30.60. It also scored high for animal safety.

However, Envoy was the most expensive carrier in 2021, with an average fare of 12.42 cents per mile. This can primarily be attributed to the carrier flying on behalf of American to smaller markets which have higher operating costs, resulting in higher airfares.

3.Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines.Alaska Airlines

Alaska is the third best airline in the United States, according to WalletHub. The airline won the title of safest airline and achieved high scores in terms of reliability, comfort and price.

The airline scored 4.5 out of 5 for comfort, tied with Delta and just losing out to JetBlue.

2. Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 767Angel DiBilio/Shutterstock

Hawaiian is second this year, scoring high in affordability, reliability, and safety. However, the airline only beat Spirit and Frontier on comfort, with a rating of 2 out of 5.

Meanwhile, the airline had the second highest number of passenger complaints with 37.63 per 100,000 passengers, according to data from WalletHub. The airline received a high overall rating due to its punctuality and safety.

1.Delta Airlines

Delta Air Lines aircraft.On The Run Photo/Shutterstock

Just like the Wall Street Journal, WalletHub named Delta the best carrier in the United States. The Atlanta-based airline is the most reliable airline and tied for second with Hawaiian for comfort.

The airline also proved its responsibility with pets, reporting no animal-related incidents in 2021. Additionally, the airline had one of the lowest rates of consumer complaints, receiving 1.92 complaints for 100,000 passengers, according to data from WalletHub.

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