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The 15 Best Airlines In The United States

The 15 Best Airlines In The United States

Each year the Airline Quality Ratings releases a report ranking the top U.S. airlines. AQR bases the decision using a scale of 1 to 15, from best to worst, to rate airlines in the categories of on-time performance (which receives the most weight), customer complaints, denied boarding, and mishandled baggage. Airfares are not included in the rating system.

American Eagle

The regional carrier for American Airlines performed below the industry average this year. It rates the worst in on-time arrivals at 72.1% and had the most instances of lost or mishandled baggage at 5.9 per 1,000 passengers.

SkyWest Airlines

A regional airline that does reasonably well with low customer complaints. It has seen an increase in denied boarding rate, currently at 2.55 for every 10,000 passengers.


This regional airline is down quite a bit in on time arrival percentage. There was some improvement in the other three categories this year, but mishandled baggage is still at a dismal 4.89 per 1,000 passengers.

United Airlines

United merged with Continental in 2010 and is still working out the kinks. it has seen its number of customer complaints drop nearly in half, which is a good sign.

Frontier Airlines

Frontier is in the process of restructuring and has suffered for it. It has the most customer complaints at 3.09 per 100,000 passengers. It has also increased its number of denied boardings and only 73% of its flights are on time.


This airline didn’t have a great year as it saw a drop in on-time arrival percentage and more than doubled its rate of mishandled baggage.

American Airlines

American is in flux as it merges with U.S. Airways. Hopefully, the better performance of U.S. will reflect itself at American but that remains to be seen. As it stands, American saw an increase in on time arrival percentage and a decrease in denied boardings; however, it has seen more bags mishandled and more customer complaints this year.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest receives the fewest customer complaints of any airline at .34 for every 100,000 passengers. However, the airline is expanding and heading into a merger with AirTran, and there is no telling what this will do to the airline’s performance.

U.S. Airways

The airline is in the midst of a merger with American and has struggled somewhat due to the chaos. On time flight percentage is down and a number of mishandled bags is up. However, customer complaints are down, perhaps due to an understanding or at least hope that things will get better once the merger takes hold and things settle down.

Endeavor Air

A regional airline that is an offshoot of Delta, Endeavor is new to the rankings. It does better than the industry average in all four categories but does struggle a little with handling baggage, 2.66 mishandled per 1,000 fliers.

Alaska Airlines

The airline saw a drop in customer complaints this year while also having a slight drop in arrival percentage, at 87.2% on time, and an increase in a number of mishandled bags but is overall still one of the better airlines.

Delta Airlines

Delta has had quite a turnaround in recent years, going from worst in 2010 to fourth place. It has received high approval ratings from customers. The airline rarely denies a boarding and has few customer complaints.

Hawaiian Airlines

The airline has the best score for on-time arrivals at 93.3% of its flights. However, it struggles when it comes to baggage handling. And its flights are aided by good weather and short distances.


The airline has one of the lowest rates of denied boardings but struggles a little with on-time arrivals, standing at only 74.4%. Still, it comes in second place with a rating of -0.42.

Virgin America

For the second year in a row, Virgin America tops the list. The airline beats the industry average for on-time arrival percentage, number of denied boardings, and mishandled baggage, although it saw a slight increase in the number of mishandled bags. It lowered its number of denied boardings and 82% of its arrivals were on time.

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