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7 Popular Airlines Ranked from Best to Worst for Customer Service

You: Haha, airlines are the worst! They’re so bad at doing what they’re supposed to do.

Airline Worker: Yeah? Oh yeah? We’re the worst? You, uh, you think you can do a better job? You think you can do a better job of rocketing fifty million people through the sky every month? And getting all their dumb crap to the right place? And shoving free peanuts and soda into their greedy face holes? You think it’s easy doing this?!? Yeah, sorry. Sorry your magical sky ride isn’t somehow more convenient than it already is! By all means feel free to take a grueling 11 hour car ride filled with stops at stinking, soaking wet truck stop bathrooms, being forced to eat Burger King for every meal, and absolutely no option to get drunk along the way.

All of that is to say that it’s hard to tell how American airline companies could do much better of a job, for the most part. Obviously there are exceptions. It’d be great if United Airlines planes stopped being a worse place for dogs than Michael Vick’s old basement. And, yes, sure, Spirit Airlines should probably stop modeling its business after the plane full of chickens Indiana Jones boards while escaping Hong Kong at the beginning of Temple of Doom.

For the most part, though, airlines probably do a hard job fairly well. Could they be better? Sure. Compared to Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, who fly airlines like Lufthansa, Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Singapore Airlines, to name a few, getting on a plane in America feels like riding the bus. Still, most people are pissed off in perpetuity at them. The most recent evidence of that comes from a ranking of the best airlines by customer service from Wall Street 24/7.

The airlines industry consistently falls into the lower third of all industries when it comes to customer service and satisfaction. The one saving grace for the industry has been reduced fares. On just about every other score, their reputation sinks.

In our recent survey on customer service conducted by Zogby Analytics, the top-ranked airline placed 30th among all 150 companies and 17 industries included in the survey. The lowest ranked airline ranked dead last among all 150 companies and another airline ranked 146th.

Here are Wall Street 24/7’s rankings of the best airlines (and worst airlines) for customer service in the United States. The rankings consist largely of on-time performance, baggage handling, and cancellation rates.

1. Southwest Airlines

Overall rank: 30th> Pct. “excellent” ratings: 35.96%> Pct. “poor” ratings: 4.63%> Revenue last fiscal year: $20.43 billion
Southwest’s on-time arrival percentage was 74.9% in July and its cancellation rate was 0.7%, or 852 of nearly 118,000 scheduled flights. Mishandled baggage affected 3.38 customers per 1,000 travelers, or about 49,000 of the airline’s 14.44 million passengers in July.

Of all the airlines I’ve flown, Southwest has by far been the most accommodating. They’ve helped me with getting new flights (for free) after missing my original ones due to insanely long security lines, given me free drinks on multiple occasions, never lost my luggage. They’re so accommodating that they strike me as the type of people I could convince to let me bring an emotional support rattlesnake on board with me.
Southwest’s boarding process might kind of be annoying, and they don’t have business class, but otherwise they do it right.

2. JetBlue

> Overall rank: 53rd> Pct. “excellent” ratings: 32.99%> Pct. “poor” ratings: 6.86%> Revenue last fiscal year: $6.63 billion
JetBlue’s on-time arrival percentage was 63.5% in July, the worst of any airline, and its cancellation rate was 2.5%, or 659 of more than 26,000 scheduled flights. Mishandled baggage affected 1.81 customers per 1,000 travelers, or about 5,500 of the airline’s 3.04 million passengers in July.

Never flown it, but it seems cool?

3. American Airlines

> Overall rank: 68th> Pct. “excellent” ratings: 31.05%> Pct. “poor” ratings: 8.69%> Revenue last fiscal year: $40.18 billion
American’s on-time arrival percentage was 73.1% in July and its cancellation rate was 1.9% or 1,506 of more than 79,000 scheduled flights. Mishandled baggage affected 1.79 customers per 1,000 travelers, or about more than 38,000 of the airline’s 11.03 million passengers in July.

American Airlines also once helped me out, at no cost to me, when I missed a connector in Chicago due to a flight delay. They are, otherwise, perfectly average and fine.

4. Alaska Airlines

> Overall rank: 81st> Pct. “excellent” ratings: 30.2%> Pct. “poor” ratings: 6.82%> Revenue last fiscal year: $5.93 billion
Alaska’s on-time arrival percentage was 85.7% in July, the highest among these seven airlines, and its cancellation rate was 0.4%, or 69 of more than 17,000 scheduled flights. Mishandled baggage affected 3.47 customers per 1,000 travelers, or about 4,200 of the airline’s 2.35 million passengers in July.

Alaska Airlines recently bought out Virgin America. Virgin is easily the best flight experience I’ve ever had, in every facet from fare to staff to comfort to service. Going to have to cut Alaska off the mainland and let it sink into the ocean if they ruined Virgin America. At least Virgin Atlantic is still intact.

5. Delta Air Lines

> Overall rank: 122nd> Pct. “excellent” ratings: 25.67%> Pct. “poor” ratings: 7.07%> Revenue last fiscal year: $39.64 billion
Delta’s on-time arrival percentage was 83.1% in July and its cancellation rate was effectively zero, or just 36 of more than 83,000 scheduled flights. Mishandled baggage affected 1.77 customers per 1,000 travelers, the lowest rate among all U.S. airlines, or more than 21,000 of the airline’s 2.35 million passengers in July.

Too high, but at least Atlanta’s airport has lots of stuff to do when you inevitably get delayed there.

6. United Airlines

> Overall rank: 146th> Pct. “excellent” ratings: 21.24%> Pct. “poor” ratings: 16.32%> Revenue last fiscal year: $36.56 billion
United’s on-time arrival percentage was 78.7% in July and its cancellation rate was 2.9%, or 416 of more than 14,000 scheduled flights, the worst among these seven airlines. Mishandled baggage affected 1.8 customers per 1,000 travelers, or nearly 23,000 of the airline’s 8 million passengers in July.

I’ve never had a bad experience with United Airlines but then again they haven’t murdered any of my dogs.

7. Spirit Airlines

> Overall rank: 150th> Pct. “excellent” ratings: 18.42%> Pct. “poor” ratings: 16.4%> Revenue last fiscal year: $1.42 billion
Spirit’s on-time arrival percentage was 73.5% in July and its cancellation rate was 0.8%, or 435 of nearly 54,000 scheduled flights. Mishandled baggage affected 2.86 customers per 1,000 travelers, or about 3,700 of the airline’s 2.09 million passengers in July.

In actual last place out the 150 companies Wall Street 24/7 ranked, not just the airlines. Still too high. Spirit has roughly the customer satisfaction this mom does with the internet, because at some point low-cost stops being value and starts being the difference between salisbury steak and dog food.

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Rob Fox About the author:

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