The Best and Worst Airlines in America

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Travel is starting to bounce back in a big way across the United States. Many things have changed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how we judge our travel experience is proving to be one of them.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index’s (ACSI) latest Travel Report indicates that airlines are enjoying unprecedented satisfaction among customers for a variety of reasons including the stringent cleaning procedures for planes and the practice of blocking middle seats.

What Are the Best and Worst Airlines According to Customers?

The report covers customer satisfaction results from surveys taken from April 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began to bear down on the U.S. economy, to March 2021.

Here are some key findings in the report, which scores airlines on a 100-point scale:

  • Southwest Airlines again tops the list, but for the first time, Delta Air Lines shares the #1 spot.
  • Customer satisfaction with the airline industry overall has improved 1.3%, reaching an all-time high ACSI score of 76.
  • Satisfaction scores among airline customers have seen a net increase of 4.1% since 2018.

Let’s look at the best and worst airlines, according to the ASCI report.

Best and Worst Airlines for Customer Satisfaction

Airlines2020-2021 Score% Change From Last Year
Delta Air Lines793%
Southwest Airlines790%
Alaska Airlines77-1%
JetBlue Airways77-1%
American Airlines751%
United Airlines750%
Allegiant Air72-3%
Frontier Airlines683%
Spirit Airlines622%
All Airlines (Average)761.3%

The airline industry enjoys a bevy of small wins in the report: Customers deemed flight timeliness, baggage handling and flight crew courtesy as “excellent” overall with a score of 80. Loyalty programs also graded well (79).

Seat comfort stood out as the most improved experience from the customer’s perspective, scoring a best-ever score of 73.

Here’s how the report puts it:  

“According to ACSI data collected from April to September 2020, seat comfort assessments were even higher during the initial onset of COVID-19. This is likely a reflection of the industry’s widespread practice of blocking middle seats during that period. As carriers began to fill those seats, passengers became less happy with their comfort level.”

So that score of 73 may prove to be short-lived.

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Should You Fly Right Now?

When choosing whether flying right now is a good idea for you, check out the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

As far as saving money when and if you choose to book a flight, here is money expert Clark Howard’s advice:

“My #1 rule of travel is buy the deal first and then figure out why you want to go there. By following that simple rule, I’ve been able to visit every continent except Antarctica and every state except North Dakota. And I’ve done it all on a dime.”

To get the best deal, here is the best day and time to book a cheap flight.

More Travel Resources From Clark.com:




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