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These Are The Least Reliable Airlines In The U.S. According To A New Report

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It’s well known that 2023 travel is off to a strong start so far this year, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. American travelers are one demographic that is especially eager to get back to exploring, and many report an interest in taking domestic and international trips as soon as the time is right.

flights taxi on the runway

Of course, the options for travel in America keep growing, with more airlines and routes than ever before. Yet with the expanse of choices (not to mention amenities being added by certain airlines to entice more bookings), air travel in the U.S. doesn’t seem to be getting any more enjoyable overall. 

Anyone who has traveled by air in the past couple of years will tell you that it’s much more of a headache than pre-pandemic times, with a variety of factors leading to more stressful experiences from start to finish. Yet, despite the inconveniences of lost luggage, long wait times, and cancelations, post-pandemic travel numbers are skyrocketing, with some reports suggesting that over 90% of Americans are planning on traveling this year alone. 

girl looking at flight board

So, with a variety of options to choose from, which U.S. airlines are the most and least reliable? A recent report from American personal finance company Nerd Wallet analyzes data from the Bureau of Transportation statistics from last year to predict this year's best and worst picks. Using metrics such as cancelations rates, flight diversions, tarmac delays, lost luggage, on-time performance, and involuntarily denied boardings, the list ranks 9 major U.S. airlines' overall performance. 

So, based on these rankings, which U.S. airlines are predicted to be the most and least reliable for 2023? Using the criteria, each airline was given a score of 0-5. It’s important to remember that the key here is a percentage, so while certain airlines might have a higher number of cancellations, it’s all relative to the number of flights offered. 

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jet blue and southwest planes

The overall reliability score for U.S. airlines are as follows:

  1. Hawaiian Airlines 5.0
  2. Delta 3.9
  3. Alaska 3.3
  4. Southwest 3.2
  5. United 3.0
  6. American 2.8
  7. Frontier 2.8
  8. Spirit 2.6
  9. JetBlue 1.6

As you can see, the lowest-performing airlines were JetBlue, Spirit, Frontier, American, and United. While Hawaiian Airlines took the top prize, followed by Delta, Alaska Airlines, and Southwest. So, why the low marks for certain airlines? A simple breakdown of the data is necessary to understand. 

JetBlue

This beloved airline ranked low in on-time performance, with an average of 65% of flights arriving later than scheduled. JetBlue also scored low marks in the flight cancelations category, with a near 4% of flights being canceled between June 2021-June 2022.

Another area that hurt this airline’s ranking was the number of flight diversions, with over 1,000 diversions in the reported year alone. Tarmac delays and baggage woes also plagued JetBlue last year, but on the bright side, the full entertainment systems, wifi, and increasingly expanded menus do tend to keep passengers happy enough to keep coming back. 

jetblue flights

Spirit 

This low-cost carrier finished second to last in the rankings of reliable airlines for 2023, with low markings for most performance indicators analyzed for this list. In addition, it seems people either love or hate Spirit on social media, with many bragging or complaining about their cheap flights and lack of amenities.

While the metrics and social media rants might lead some to believe that Spirit is not people's first choice, the airline’s numerous new routes and low-cost fares ensure that travelers keep choosing this carrier for their flights. 

spirit plane taking off

Frontier 

A poor on-time percentage of about 69% and a high number of mishandled luggage helped to land this low-cost airline in the bottom 3 rankings in this list. Frontier also reported a high number of flight diversions in 2021-2022, with a diversion rate of around .15%.

While many people do tend to complain about Frontier, the many air passes and promotions that it offers help to keep the business thriving. The airline has reported strong profits in recent times, so they must be doing something right! 

frontier airlines plane in the sky

American and United 

These major airlines are classic staples of the American aviation industry today, although this list ranks them at the bottom for certain metrics reported in the year analyzed. American scored especially low marks for mishandled luggage, with a whopping nearly 900,000 mishandled checked bags between July 2021 – June 2022.

United, however, scored more or less in the middle for all these metrics, ranking it just low enough to be included in the bottom 5. One area United does rank lower, however, is their cancellation percentage, although more recent reports indicate that might be changing.  

american airlines planes

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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com

Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.


Todd

Sunday 13th of August 2023

Coming from an ex-diamond medallion, Delta is in trouble. 5 out of 5 flight in the last few weeks delayed significantly to force missed connections. Thankfully driving is an option. Until Delta gets their act together, Im done with them traveling for work. I need way better reliability than they’re able to deliver.

steve orr

Sunday 5th of March 2023

Southwest airlines ahead of American now that's a joke right

Frank Wright

Friday 3rd of March 2023

I want to add as well: Hawaiian is a very reliable airline. A perfect 5 though? For any airline in the world? On reliability? Thats hilarious as well. Woof.

Frank Wright

Friday 3rd of March 2023

I just went to the DOT website that was a “source” and from Jan 1 2022 until Dec 31 2023 Frontier had 0.18% of its total flights divert, which is actually one of the lowest diversion rates in the industry. Took me 20 secs to fact check it too. You guys might want to check your facts as the 15% you reported is laughable and shows whoever wrote this probably doesn’t know much about anything—especially putting WN as the 4th most reliable airline. They’re pretty reliable at not getting you home for the holidays and thats about the extent. Cheers. If you want to write these articles for clicks, it helps having accurate data!

David

Saturday 4th of March 2023

@Frank Wright, Hello Frank. Please re read the article. The stats are from 2021-2022 when you looked up from 2022-2023

Tyler Fox

Friday 3rd of March 2023

Thanks, Frank. We had a typo and were missing a period. It should have been .15%.