The Best Domestic Airlines in 2017
When it comes to the pain points of travel these days, airlines usually get the brunt of complaints. So when a carrier scores big with fliers, it’s usually because of company-wide efforts by pilots, ground crew, gate agents, booking and sales agents, and customer-service reps to deliver premium-class service to all customers — whether they’re flying first or coach.
The airlines that scored big with our readers this year are the ones that are doubling down on making customers happy. Among this year’s winners, JetBlue continues to win accolades for its Mint premium cabin service. When it comes to the onboard snacks, one T+L reader also cited how the airline “goes the extra mile for passengers with food allergies by serving nut-free and gluten-free choices. A serious plus when you travel with children.”
Both Hawaiian Airlines and Southwest consistently rank high for their frequent-flier programs and excellent flight service (mahalo, Hawaiian, for still providing complimentary meals!), with the latter getting extra shout-outs for value. “Southwest offers flexibility and no hidden costs,” wrote one reader. “You can check two bags free of charge, there are no change fees, and the flights are STILL economical.”
Alaska Airlines’ increasing popularity is owed in large part to a great loyalty program and an expanding flight network, and its customer base will soon be growing due to its acquisition — and ultimate dissolution — of Virgin America in 2019. Virgin America has held the No. 1 spot on our domestic airline list for the past 10 years, and it’s no surprise, given that many of our readers praised the customer service. “They really know how to get it right,” said one fan. “Every employee seemed to love their job, and I never felt for one moment that I was a bother as a passenger,” added another.
How do we determine the best? 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, service, food, customer service, and value. See below for how the best U.S.-based airlines fared among our readers.
5. Southwest Airlines
4. Hawaiian Airlines
3. Alaska Airlines
2. JetBlue Airways
1. Virgin America
As one reader commented, “As far as I’m concerned this is the only airline to fly in the U.S. It has style and it’s fun.” This pioneering airline, which was founded by Richard Branson as an outgrowth of Virgin Atlantic and began operating in 2007, continues to earn raves for its comfortable leather seats, calming mood lighting, high-definition seatback entertainment, and healthy food. Many of our readers expressed sadness over the pending acquisition by Alaska Airlines, yet remain hopeful about the merger. “This is my favorite airline,” wrote Joe Clifton. “Time will tell if the passengers remain loyal or go someplace else.”
Note: April 24, 2018 will be the last day travelers can book a flight through Virgin America.