There's a new No. 1 U.S. airline—it's not Delta

Izusek | E+ | Getty Images

There are plenty of factors to consider when booking long-range travel plans. One of the biggest: which airline will fly you to your destination.

While many airlines will take you where you want to go, the travel experience can vary widely when it comes to factors such as boarding processes, amenities and baggage allowances.

WalletHub recently released a ranking of the best airlines in the U.S. The site compared the nine biggest domestic airlines, plus one regional carrier, across 13 metrics in three major categories:

  1. Baggage and departures
  2. In-flight comfort and cost
  3. Safety

The airlines were scored on metrics including how many mishandled baggage reports they had, how often they canceled flights, the availability of complimentary refreshments and how often they had delays. Each airline then received a score out of a maximum 100 points.

After two years in the top spot, Delta Air Lines slipped to fourth place, behind new No. 1 Alaska Airlines, as well as SkyWest and Spirit.

Despite losing its crown, Delta was still found to be the most reliable airline because of its low rate of cancellations, delays, mishandled luggage and denied boardings. The legacy carrier also ranked as one of the most comfortable airlines in terms of in-flight experience.

Alaska Airlines is WalletHub's No. 1 U.S. airline

Alaska Airlines received the most points in WalletHub's analysis, with a score of 68.07 out of a possible 100 points.

Although Delta held the top spot in 2022 and 2023, Alaska previously ranked at No. 1 from 2017 to 2019 and again in 2021.

In WalletHub's ranking, Alaska was also the third-most reliable and comfortable airline and the fourth-most affordable airline.

Alaska Airlines ranked as the best U.S. airline, according to a recent WalletHub report.
Anadolu | Anadolu | Getty Images
Alaska Airlines ranked as the best U.S. airline, according to a recent WalletHub report.

Alaska Airlines offers customers complimentary in-flight Starbucks, has hubs across the Northwest Coast, and is a member of the Oneworld alliance, a global airline alliance of 13 members, including American Airlines, Qatar Airlines and British Airways. This allows Alaska to offer its passengers special perks, such as rebooking a flight on another airline that's part of the alliance when possible.

The airline was also ranked the best airline and best airline rewards program by NerdWallet earlier this year.

The top U.S. airlines ranked, according to WalletHub

  1. Alaska Airlines (68.07 points)
  2. SkyWest Airlines (65.96 points)
  3. Spirit Airlines (65.69 points)
  4. Delta Air Lines (61.56 points)
  5. United Airlines (51.96 points)
  6. JetBlue Airways(51.6 points)
  7. Hawaiian Airlines (48.3 points)
  8. American Airlines (46.52 points)
  9. Frontier Airlines (43.57 points)
  10. Southwest Airlines (36.03 points)

The second-best airline, according to WalletHub, is SkyWest Airlines, with a score of 65.96.

SkyWest is a regional airline that partners with major airlines such as Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and American Airlines.

SkyWest ranked as the second best U.S. airline, according to WalletHub.
Ian Waldie | Bloomberg | Getty Images
SkyWest ranked as the second best U.S. airline, according to WalletHub.

In 2023, it carried 38.6 million passengers to its 237 destinations throughout North America.

SkyWest ranked in the top three domestic airlines for on-time performance from February 2023 to January 2024, with 84% of its flights departing as scheduled, according to data from the Department of Transportation.

Ultra-low-cost Spirit Airlines ranked No. 3 in WalletHub's report, with a score of 65.69.

Spirit also ranked as the best airline for budget flyers, beating out Frontier, a fellow low-cost airline. The Florida-based carrier's flights cost about 5.23 cents per mile in 2024, while Frontier's cost 6.03 cents per mile, according to WalletHub.

Spirit Airlines ranked as the No. 3 best U.S. airline, according to WalletHub.
Brian Van Der Brug | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images
Spirit Airlines ranked as the No. 3 best U.S. airline, according to WalletHub.

A major reason Spirit Airlines is able to keep its costs lower than other airlines is that it has an a la carte pricing model. This means your fare covers only your seat, and anything extra, such as bags and in-flight snacks, comes at a cost.

Spirit Airlines might not offer the most comfortable experience — its seats are known for their limited legroom and lack of in-flight entertainment — compared with some of the other airlines listed. However, if a traveler is looking to spend less money in the U.S., the Caribbean or Latin America, it might be a fit.

On the other end of the list, Southwest Airlines ranked last for the third year in a row with just 36.03 points. The Texas-based carrier fared poorly when scored on metrics including price, safety measures, mishandled baggage reports and denied boarding.

Despite ranking last, Southwest Airlines had the lowest percentage of canceled flights, WalletHub found, based on 2023 flight data from the Department of Transportation.

Want to make extra money outside of your day job? Sign up for CNBC's new online course How to Earn Passive Income Online to learn about common passive income streams, tips to get started and real-life success stories.

Plus, sign up for CNBC Make It's newsletter to get tips and tricks for success at work, with money and in life.

Copyright CNBC
Contact Us