United ranked second, followed by Virgin America, JetBlue, American Airlines, Southwest, Delta, Hawaiian Airlines, Frontier and Spirit. The rankings are based on data from 2016, the website says.
ThePointsGuy.com, which has been covering travel since 2010, focused only on domestic airlines for its report. (The website, while gently urging Americans to broaden their horizons by selecting some foreign locales to satisfy their wanderlust, also bowed to the reality that less than 40 percent of the population holds passports.) It also focused only on the largest carriers, noting that although many regional airlines offer excellent service, fewer people are likely to use them.
But what it wanted to do was something different than just a consumer survey or a narrow ranking based on only one or two factors, such as on-time arrivals.
“What we set to do is to do objective hard numbers but across as many possible criteria that we could think of and then weight it all into one score,” author Julian Mark Kheel said Monday in an interview. “We’ve gotten a lot of commentary, a lot of feedback.”
Perhaps the most surprising result – even among the researchers was where Delta and United ended up.
“What United is doing right, is they aren’t winning in any of our 10 criteria but they’re doing well enough in quite a few of them that they ended up in that No. 2 spot. And they aren’t really awful at anything,” Kheel said. “At Delta, they’re doing a really good job of running the airline, and they have excellent numbers in on-time arrivals, and customer satisfaction, involuntary bumps, lounges and things like that. But they got badly hurt by the cost of their tickets because airfare is 25 percent of our weighting. And they have the most expensive tickets based on our data, so that really pushed them down the list.”
Kheel said few were surprised where Frontier and Spirit ended up. Their ranking may in some ways be related to the fact that although they are discount airlines, they make their money on a lot of fees for baggage and other add-ons, he said.
“It’s the most annoying thing in the world,” he said.
Read more of Tripping: