In the latest annual airline rankings by The Wall Street Journal for 2023, Delta Air Lines has once again claimed the top position as the best carrier in the United States. The comprehensive evaluation encompassed seven key metrics, where Delta outshone its competitors in on-time performance, complaints, and involuntary bumping, the latter of which it shared with Allegiant Air.
The data for the rankings was compiled from aviation company Anuvu and the Department of Transportation. Delta’s dominance was evident as it secured no lower than fifth place in the remaining four categories, which included flight cancellations, extreme delays exceeding 45 minutes, baggage handling, and tarmac delays lasting at least two hours. Notably, Delta’s on-time performance, defined as arrivals within 15 minutes of the scheduled time, reached an impressive 83% in 2023.
Alaska Airlines, Delta’s West Coast counterpart, closely trailed in the rankings, securing the second position for the third consecutive year. Alaska Airlines, in addition to outperforming Delta in cancellations and extreme delays, achieved a punctuality rating of at least 80%, making it the only other carrier to reach this milestone, as reported by the Journal. However, the airline faced challenges in baggage handling, ranking seventh out of nine carriers, a point the company spokesperson acknowledged and attributed to ongoing efforts to implement new tools and technology for improvement.
An interesting development in the rankings was the rise of ultra-low-cost carrier Allegiant, which climbed from fifth to third place. Allegiant earned praise for its notably low rates of flight cancellations, tarmac delays, mishandled baggage, and zero involuntarily bumped passengers. This surge in performance allowed Allegiant to surpass Southwest Airlines, which faced challenges following a winter meltdown in late 2022 and early 2023, resulting in increased passenger complaints and baggage mishaps. Southwest, however, managed to hold onto the fourth position, having learned from the previous year’s issues, according to Southwest COO Andrew Watterson.
American and United Airlines found themselves in the middle tier, losing points primarily in cancellations, tarmac delays, and baggage mishandling. Spirit Airlines performed less favorably, ranking fifth or lower in all evaluated metrics. At the bottom of the rankings once again was JetBlue Airways, which struggled in categories such as baggage handling, punctuality, tarmac delays, extreme delays, and flight cancellations. The airline cited staffing shortages, severe weather, and congested airspace in and around New York City as contributing factors to its on-time performance of 66.4%, below the industry average of 77.6%.
JetBlue remains committed to addressing these challenges, citing plans to utilize slot waivers at NYC airports, introduce more time between flights, and invest in new technology to enhance operational performance. Despite being in a challenging position, JetBlue emphasized its unique exposure to New York, making direct comparisons with other carriers complex.
The Wall Street Journal excluded Hawaiian Airlines from the rankings due to its regional focus. Additionally, specific carriers, such as Frontier and American Airlines, found themselves at the bottom in certain categories, with Frontier ranking seventh overall, ahead of JetBlue. Frontier faced challenges related to customer complaints and involuntary bumping, while American struggled specifically with baggage handling, according to The Wall Street Journal’s data.
Here is the ranking of the 2023 best and worst airlines, according to The Wall Street Journal:
9. JetBlue Airways
8. Frontier Airlines
7. Spirit Airlines
6. United Airlines
5. American Airlines
4. Southwest Airlines
3. Allegiant Air
2. Alaska Airlines
1. Delta Air Lines