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Which Was The Best Airline In 2021?

With summer fast approaching, sun-seekers will soon be making that all-important decision of which airline to entrust with their precious vacation booking. Getting it right could mean a smooth ride all the way to the beach; while getting it wrong could spell disaster and a long wait filling out forms at baggage reclaim.


Luckily for us, the good folks at WalletHub have revealed their annual list of best airlines, which lays out the pros and cons of each carrier: from Delta Air Lines at the top of the list, to Southwest in last place.

Using data from the US Department of Transport, WalletHub ranked 11 airlines from best to worst based on 16 metrics across 6 main categories: baggage, departures, complaints, animal-related incidents, inflight comfort, and safety. Within these categories factors such as delays, Wi-Fi availability, legroom, denied boardings and price are also included. The company then aggregated the point collection to give an overall performance rank out of 100.


Let’s take a look at the scores.

11. Southwest Airlines

Southwest brought up the rear of the ranking, placing lowest in reliability and safety. The airline scored 7.84 out of 50 for reliability compared to top performers such as Delta scoring above 30. The data suggests that the fall in reliability score, which dropped from 26.80 points, is likely due to the multi-day meltdown which left passengers stranded in October 2021. The low safety score was most likely a knock-on effect from an uncontained engine failure in 2018 that led to one fatality.

10. American Airlines

The second last is American Airlines also ranking low in reliability and safety. The low safety score can be attributed to a large amount of employee and passenger injuries in the last year. At least 50 passengers required medical care in 2021. However, the airline did receive a high comfort score attaining a 4 out of 5.

9. JetBlue Airways

Although named the worst US airline by the Wall Street Journal, JetBlue was able to pull through and managed to miss out on the bottom position by receiving an overall score of 43.34, 12.74 points higher than the lowest ranking Southwest. Similarly, to its bottom-placed competitors, it scored low on reliability at 16.52 out of 50 and ranked fourth regarding consumer complaints. However, the carrier did hit the top ranks for comfort and was deemed the best airline for legroom in the economy cabin by Conde Nest Traveler.


8. Frontier Airlines

Dubbed the most affordable by the data, Frontier takes eighth place. The data showed a 3.53 cents per mile. However, the carrier did score low regarding reliability and comfort, mainly due to its lack of amenities like Wi-Fi and complimentary drinks. Further, the airline was deemed to have the smallest amount of legroom offered, totaling a tight 28 inches.

7. United Airlines

Despite gaining high scores in reliability, coming third overall, and in comfort, gaining a 4.5 out of 5, United fell short due to the high number of passenger complaints. The airline totaled a whopping 3,581 complaints in 2021 pushing its overall score down to 56.30.

6. SkyWest Airlines

Due to SkyWest being the carrier for four airlines; United, Delta, America and Alaska, its scores were deducted from an average of maximum and minimum for each situation to determine its overall comfort score. The carrier did well in rankings for pet-friendliness and customer satisfaction. The airline also fared well with regard to complaints, receiving 0.92 complaints per 100,000 passengers.

5. Spirit Airlines

On the home stretch comes Spirit Airlines placing fifth due to its performance in affordability and safety. The carrier only falls behind Frontier, with an average of 3.82 cents per mile and received a 19.99 out of 50 for reliability marking the average for other airlines.

4. Envoy Air

The wholly-owned subsidiary of American, Envoy, just slid passed the top three mark but is one of the top-performing operators in the United States. The airline received an impressive overall score of 60.64 out of 100, double that of the lowest scorer Southwest. However, its main problem was its price, with data showing it was the most expensive carrier with an average airfare of 12.42 cents per mile.

3. Alaska Airlines

At the bottom of the top three scores is Alaska Airlines. The airline earned the title of safest airline and scored well regarding reliability and price. They also gained a solid comfort rating receiving a strong 4.5 out of 5.

2. Hawaiian Airlines

Just missing the top mark is Hawaiian Airlines scoring high in affordability, reliability, and safety. The company’s overall high score can be attributed to its strong on-time performance and safety. However, the carrier only just beat lower scores such as Spirit and Frontier in terms of comfort, scoring a meagre 2 out of 5. The airline also had the second-highest in terms of customer complaints receiving 37.63 complaints per 100,000 passengers.

1. Delta Air Lines

And in top place, is Delta Air Lines. The airline received an impressive 70.48 out of 100. The ranking comes after Wall Street Journal also named the carrier top in the US. The airline gains the title of most reliable and received second place in comfort. The airline also gained rave reviews with regard to pet care, reporting no animal-related incidents in 2021. Furthermore, the carrier received the lowest number of customer complaints with a minimal 1.92 per 100,000 passengers. Truly a well-deserved win for Delta!

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