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Best and worst US airlines

Best and worst US airlines

Alaska Airlines is the best US-based airline, according to a new study. Spirit Airlines received the lowest ranking of the 10 major carriers included in the report.

The report is the most comprehensive of its kind. Whereas other best/worst airlines lists rely heavily on consumer surveys and a narrow set of criteria, incorporated these 10 objective, wide-ranging factors (weighting in parentheses): airfare (25%), route networks (15%), bag/change fees (10%), cabin comfort (10%), customer satisfaction (10%), frequent flyer programs (10%), on-time arrivals (10%), lost baggage (5%), domestic lounges (3%) and involuntary bumps (2%).

• Alaska Airlines earned top honors in the frequent flyer program category and placed second in customer satisfaction and on-time arrivals. Its main drawback is a mediocre route network, but its ongoing merger with Virgin America should improve that situation, especially in popular markets such as California, New York City and Washington, D.C.

• United came in second overall thanks in large part to its comfortable cabins and an abundance of lounges (it rates second in both categories).

• While Virgin America placed an impressive third overall, its ranking is choppier than most. On the plus side, Virgin topped the list for cabin comfort and it loses the fewest bags per passenger of any airline on this list. However, a limited route network (second-worst) and pricey bag/change fees (third-highest) kept Virgin from a higher ranking.

• Spirit took the bottom spot on the list thanks to last-place rankings for cabin comfort, customer satisfaction, frequent flyer perks and on-time arrivals, plus zero lounges. It earned a top score for cheap fares, but Spirit didn’t place higher than fifth in any other department.

• Frontier (second-worst overall) is similar to Spirit. It ranks in the bottom half of every classification except airfare, where it’s second-best.

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