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What are the Best Airlines in America?

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airplaneDelayed flights, lost bags, bumped passengers, and customer complaints. Those are just a few of the criteria to figure out whether an airline is worth your business. Find out the best airlines in America, based on the annual Airline Quality Rating report.

The report, authored by aviation professors Brent D. Bowne of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott and Dean E. Headley of Wichita State University, relies on data from the Air Travel Consumer Report compiled every month by the Department of Transportation (DOT).

2014 Airline Rankings

1. Virgin Airlines
2. JetBlue
3. Hawaiian Airlines
4. Delta Air Lines
5. Alaska Airlines
6. Endeavor Air
7. US Airways
8. Southwest Airlines
9. American Airlines
10. AirTran Airways
11. Frontier Airlines
12. United Airlines
13. Express Jet
14. SkyWest Airlines
15. American Eagle

The report is divided into four categories: on-time arrival percentage, involuntary denied boardings, mishandled baggage, and total complaints.

Here’s a closer look at how each airline performed in each category in 2013 compared to 2012. Endeavor Air (ranked #6 above) is not included below, since the airline was formerly Pinnacle Airlines and became a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines on August 1, 2013.

On-Time Arrival Percentage

A flight is considered on time by the DOT if it is operated within 15 minutes of the scheduled time shown in the individual airline’s computerized reservation systems. It also includes delays due to mechanical problems.


Involuntary Denied Boardings

Involuntary denied boardings refers to passengers who had confirmed tickets for a flight and were not able to board because the flight was oversold. The figures represent the number of passengers not able to board for every 10,000 passengers who were able to board each month.


Mishandled Baggage

The information for mishandled baggage comes from the guidelines of the DOT’s Air Travel Consumer Report. It tracks complaints for lost, damaged, delayed, or pilfered baggage. The figures represent the total number of luggage reports for every 1,000 passengers served.


Total Complaints to the Department of Transportation

The DOT has 12 consumer complaint categories, including issues such as fares, refunds, flight problems, baggage, discrimination, and customer service. The information below is based on the number of complaints per 100,000 passengers for each airline.


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By Stephanie Ervin for