Through the years, air travel has become a never-ending struggle to avoid expensive luggage fees, cramped seating, and the dreaded flight delays. But it’s not all gloom and doom for the weary travelers because there are a small number of carriers that still provide better travel experiences consistently.
In order to identify the best and the worst airlines today, we have conducted a survey targeting air travelers in the domestic economy, business-class, and first-class flights. Those who participated in the survey weighed in on a couple of factors such as seat comfort, legroom, food selection, staff service, cleanliness, pricing transparency, and WiFi connectivity.
Southwest came out on top of the survey consisting of 11 airlines for overall satisfaction rating by passengers on economy flights. Southwest also gained top scores in staff services, cleanliness, and ease of check-in. It is the only airline to get the highest marks for transparency in pricing because they clearly list their fees and allows the passenger to check-in 2 bags without additional fees.
Other airlines that gained high scores for economy flights include JetBlue, Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian, and Virgin America. These airlines also received good ratings for cleanliness, ease of check-in, and staff service.
For the lowest rated airlines by coach passengers, this list includes Spirit, Frontier, United, Allegiant, and American Airlines. Spirit and Frontier airlines gained below average scores in all the categories mentioned above.
The survey also includes the rating of first-class and business-class travelers. Alaska and Hawaiian Airlines both have the highest ratings when it comes to overall passenger satisfaction.
Additional and Surprise Fees That Irk Travelers
Our survey found that coach passengers rank pricing as a crucial factor when choosing airlines. Four out of ten passengers chose airlines that offer the lowest price available.
However, several airlines are adding more economy seating, which means that passengers pay more additional fees. Economy passengers are often charged higher when they select a better seat, and a huge percentage of travelers who checked their bag was charged an additional fee.
Usually, these add-on charges are not immediately clear when passengers book online. The survey found that many passengers could not recall if there were extra fees added to their total bill when purchasing the ticket.
Many travelers are often confused when they are booking online. Other passengers think that they have to pay for a seat plus the cost of the plane ticket. This shows that fee transparency is needed in the airline booking process. Recently, the US Department of Transportation made some proposals that would require airline companies to disclose fees at the start of the booking process rather than after the ticket purchase.
Coach Passengers Experience Less Comfort
According to the survey, about 30 percent of coach passengers reported that their seats were very uncomfortable. The survey also shows that all the airline economy flights gained low scores when it comes to comfort and legroom.
Most airlines are cramming more seats into their coach section, but they did not consider that the average American is growing in size. Airline analysts discovered that the airline seats have lesser foam padding in order to fit more of them.
Coach passengers also gave low scores for the complimentary and paid food and beverage choices in all the airline carriers. Many airlines have poor WiFi connectivity and they don’t have good in-flight entertainment options.
Passengers reported that the most common check-in problem was the flight delays. The average waiting time for the passengers in the survey is more than an hour. Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines were the carriers that had the fewest flight delays and the shortest reported delay times.
High Scores for First-Class
Out of the 5 airlines rated for business-class and first-class travel, the Alaska and Hawaiian Airlines garnered the top scores. Passengers gave Hawaiian Airlines the best rating when it comes to legroom, while the Alaska Airlines got the top score for transparency in pricing.
United Airlines and American Airlines were given the lowest overall scores, with average ratings for seat comfort and low scores for WiFi connectivity and in-flight entertainment. Delta Airlines is positioned in the middle of the list.
All the five airline carriers received an above average rating for staff service. The survey also shows that business-class and first-class travelers were happier and more satisfied with their experience, compared to the coach passengers.
Finding the Best Airline Fares
Our survey found that there are many passengers who are choosing airlines based on convenience instead of cost. But it still pays to do your research and look around. No single airline or travel website offers the best travel deals in all cases.
The key is to be flexible in your timing to improve your chances of getting that cheaper ticket. Here are some of the best tips for finding that low-cost airfare.
- Consider Holiday Flights
If it’s possible, you can fly on a holiday such as Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Airfares can be 25% or even up to 50% cheaper when flying on holidays.
- Shifting Travel Dates
Many travelers choose their carriers based on the flights that fit their schedule. However, if you can be flexible enough to travel a day earlier, or fly in the morning or late evening, you can see that the ticket prices may change.
- Compare Flight Fares at Different Airports
Many passengers also choose airlines based on the availability of flights from their preferred airports. But if you are based near more than one airport, you have the option to broaden your search for the cheapest flights.
If you live in New York, you can compare the prices of an economy flight departing from JFK and the flights leaving from Newark Airport.