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United is definitely not the favorite.
Credit: Getty Images

United Airlines dropped 66 percent compared to last year in an annual survey by Airfarewatchdog.com of passengers' favorite airlines.

That placed it sixth, behind all the other major U.S. carriers. Anyone who has been paying attention to the news can guess why: United has been heavily criticized in the wake of the forcible removal of a passenger who refused to give up his seat for crew.

But it wasn't the only major carrier to see a drop: American dropped 31 percent. Southwest, meanwhile, claimed the top spot.

“Interesting that the smallest of the remaining ‘Big Four’ U.S. airlines is also the most popular,” said George Hobica, Airfarewatchdog.com's president, in a statement. “A lot of this is based on word-of-mouth and reputation, and 'most popular' doesn't mean 'best service,' otherwise, Alaska would be at the top, far ahead of American.”

The question asked of 1,300 travelers was, “Which of the following is your favorite domestic airline?”

  1. Southwest - 47.1% (up 48% from last year)
  2. Delta - 19.2% (down 1% from last year)
  3. American - 8.9% (down 31% from last year)
  4. Alaska - 8.7% (up 10% from last year)
  5. JetBlue - 8.3% (down 28% from last year)
  6. United - 3.3% (down 66% from last year)
  7. Virgin America - 3.1% (down 22% from last year)
  8. Frontier - 0.8% (down 51% from last year)
  9. Spirit - 0.6% (down 45% from last year)

“Southwest gets high marks based on its reputation for low fees, flexible cancelation policies, and friendly staff,” said Hobica. (They're also the only airline to still offer complimentary checked baggage.)

Spirit, it should come as no surprise, ranked last.