Best and Worst Airlines in the U.S. – Surprise!

According to the 2016 edition of the Airline Quality Rating report, the best airline in the U.S. is Virgin America.

Take a bow, Virgin but hurry. The Virgin America brand may soon disappear thanks to its recently-announced acquisition by Alaska Airlines.

Best and Worst Airlines in the U.S.

In case you’re wondering, the AQR report is no popularity contest; Drs. Brent Bowen and Dean Headley utilize a wide variety of sources and statistics to prove what each airline accomplished or failed at. The good news is, the overall industry score “improved in each category” except for one – consumer gripes. Aside: did FareCompare’s post on How to File a Complaint make the crucial difference?

In any event, airlines were scored in other categories including on-time flights, bumped passengers (denied boardings), mishandled baggage and so on.

Here are the final rankings, from best to worst:

1. Virgin America

2. JetBlue

3. Delta

4. Hawaiian

5. Alaska

6. Southwest

7. SkyWest

8. United

9. ExpressJet

10. American

11. Frontier

12. Envoy Air

13. Spirit

So which of these airlines has the cheapest flights?

Note about Spirit: Its last place finish can be attributed in part to a “customer complaint rate of 11.73 complaints per 100,000 passengers [which] does not compare well to the industry average of 1.90 for all airlines rated. Overall, Spirit Airlines entered the AQR ratings with the worst AQR score (-3.18) of any airline rated this year.” Ouch. But heaven knows Spirit has plenty of fans and it continues to thrive.

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Updated: April 5, 2016