The Top 5 Domestic U.S. Airlines

This year's World's Best Awards survey was open for voting January 11 through May 10, 2021, as destinations around the world were lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Survey rules have always allowed readers to reflect on their travel experiences over a three-year period. We hope that this year's honorees will inspire your own travels as you get back out into the world.

After a rocky 2020, airlines in the U.S. have come soaring back. Carriers across the country are safely flying millions of passengers every day, and the revamped in-flight experience is getting a bit more familiar. As of this writing, masks are still required on board flights in the U.S. But other things are getting back to normal: airlines have started to resume service they'd been forced to cut during the depths of the pandemic and brought back more crew. It's perhaps not surprising, then, that the best domestic airlines, according to T+L readers, are the ones that have shown empathy and flexibility throughout these stressful times.

JetBlue Airways Airbus A320-232 takes off from Los Angeles international Airport
AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images

Every year for our World's Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. In the airlines category, readers rated carriers on cabin comfort, in-flight service, food, customer service, and value.

As voters reflected on their trips over the past few years, many had fond memories of their flights. It may help that one of the top airlines in this year's World's Best Awards happens to fly to and around a destination that many consider a vacation paradise. No. 2 Hawaiian Airlines won accolades this year for its particularly warm service. "Their friendly flight attendants embody the airline's reputation for 'aloha,'" said one voter, who added that "flying on Hawaiian makes me feel like I am traveling with my family." Others gave high marks to the business-class cabin and said the airline's long-haul service to places like Sydney and Tokyo is particularly comfortable. "Excellently run, very convenient schedules, and great people," as one reader summed it up.

Another West Coast favorite, No. 3 Alaska Airlines, also ranked highly this year, maintaining the same ranking it held in 2020. "It's a good value, and they've got good customer service," said one reader, adding that the carrier also has "a better mileage program than most other airlines." Another respondent seconded that sentiment, saying Alaska offers "the best value for your buck."

Still, it was an old favorite that readers crowned as their No. 1 among the best domestic airlines. Read on to find out why JetBlue Airways continued its dominance in the World's Best Awards.

1. JetBlue Airways

jetblue a220 at a jetblue hangar
Courtesy of JetBlue Airways

This now-21-year-old airline still offers the pizazz of a start-up, readers said, as they gushed about its incredible customer service, extensive route network, expansive leg room (even in coach), and overall value. "I would definitely recommend them," said one respondent. "Hands down, better than every other airline," said another past passenger. "They go out of their way to please their passengers," wrote a third fan, who gave the airline high marks for customer service. Indeed, after a difficult year for businesses across the travel industry, JetBlue scored a few points higher than any of those airlines ranked in 2020. Even the snacks are part of the allure, readers said. "Blue chips, baby!" raved one voter.

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 81.38
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2. Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A330
Chad Slattery/Courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 81.25
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3. Alaska Airlines

An Alaska Airlines plane flying
Courtesy of Alaska Airlines

Score: 80.40
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4. Southwest Airlines

Summer Travel on Southwest Airlines
Courtesy of Southwest Airlines

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 80.00
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5. Delta Air Lines

A Delta Airbus 330-300 (333) flying over mountains.
Courtesy of Delta Air Lines

Score: 78.51
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See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2021.

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