This Is the Best (and Worst!) Airline in the U.S.

Updated: May 19, 2024

If you've got air travel on the horizon, browse this list of the best and worst airlines in the United States before booking your flight

After pandemic-era flight delays, cancellations and staffing shortages, 2023 became the year airlines restored order to air travel. And while 2024 has seen a smattering of high-profile safety incidents (ahem, blown-off Alaska Airlines door plug), aviation safety experts say commercial flights are safer than ever. Of course, safety and convenience are two different things. Luckily, when it comes to the latter, we can turn to the Wall Street Journal’s latest rankings of the best and worst airlines in the United States.

Before you book your next flight, you’ll definitely want to see how the country’s nine major airlines stack up against one another. Keep reading to find out which carriers rank as the worst airlines in the country and which earned the title of the No. 1 airline in the world.

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How were the airlines ranked?

Throughout 2023, airlines saw an increased demand in ticket sales that left many flights fully packed—a stark contrast to the half-empty flights of recent years. Airlines across the board were successful at driving down cancellation rates and improving on-time arrivals, a welcome shift for travelers.

For the 16th year in a row, the Wall Street Journal set about ranking the nine major U.S.-based airlines to see how they compared to one another and where there was still room for improvement. The paper used seven key criteria to determine the overall rankings:

  1. On-time arrivals
  2. Canceled flights
  3. Extreme delays
  4. Delays on the tarmac
  5. Mishandled bags
  6. Involuntary bumping
  7. Customer complaints

While some results—including this year’s pick for Best Airline—may not be shocking, you might be surprised to learn that budget airlines continue to perform better than many of their more costly counterparts. Bells and whistles, like free carry-on bags, free Wi-Fi and better food and drink options, only go so far.

What is the best airline?

For the third consecutive year, the Wall Street Journal named Delta Air Lines the best in the United States. Delta has earned the top slot on the list six times in the past seven years.

What pushed it into first place? Delta ranked highest for on-time arrivals, had the lowest rate of complaints and joined Allegiant Airlines in the top spot when it came to low rates of involuntarily bumping passengers from flights. It even came in second for having low rates of extreme delays. In fact, Delta reigns supreme as the airline with the highest customer satisfaction.

Despite its victory over the eight other U.S. airlines, Delta still struggles with a 1.2% flight-cancellation rate, a key operational area in which it placed fifth.

What is the worst airline?

Once again, JetBlue Airways finds itself in last place. It’s the third year in a row that the Wall Street Journal ranked it the worst airline in the United States.

JetBlue placed lowest in four categories: on-time arrivals, tarmac delays, canceled flights and delays longer than 45 minutes. It fared only slightly better in the other categories.

While the airline has earned a reputation for its amenities, including unlimited self-serve snacks and free Wi-Fi, it still struggles with scheduling, remaining one of the most delayed airlines. Interestingly, all of JetBlue’s delays have not hurt its ranking for customer satisfaction.

The full ranking of best and worst airlines

Here’s the Wall Street Journals full ranking of the best and worst airlines of 2023:

  1. Delta Air Lines
  2. Alaska Airlines
  3. Allegiant Air
  4. Southwest Airlines
  5. American Airlines
  6. United Airlines
  7. Spirit Airlines
  8. Frontier Airlines
  9. JetBlue Airways

While 2023 saw marked improvements from the previous year—for airlines across the board—several still have a long way to go. If you’re getting ready to plan your next trip, consider this list a starting point. Then be sure to book your flight during the best time to buy airplane tickets.

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