The 5 Worst Domestic Airlines — and the Best Ones

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Frustrated woman with luggage angry at the airport baggage policy
Kues /

Unless you’re flying in first or business class, air travel can hardly be considered a luxurious experience nowadays. Seats feel cramped, meal service has all but disappeared on domestic flights and fees have become the norm for many services that used to be complimentary, such as checked bags.

Luggage storage company Bounce recently analyzed data from 62 of the largest airlines in the world for its 2023 Airline Index. The index splits up international and domestic carriers and compares metrics such as on-time arrivals, cancellations, flight amenities, baggage policies and customer complaints.

Here’s a look at how U.S. carriers stack up, according to their overall score, starting with the worst and ending with the best.

10. Allegiant Air

Allegiant Air
Ryan Fletcher /

Overall score: 0.74 out of 10
On-time arrival rate: 64.08%
Number of complaints: 7.85 per 100 passengers

Allegiant Air has made a name for itself as a no-frills, ultra low-cost carrier. The airline regularly offers one-way tickets that cost less than $100 – or even $50.

But ticket prices aren’t the only thing low at Allegiant. The airline scored the lowest among domestic carriers in the 2023 Airline Index, not even garnering one full point on a 10-point scale. In online reviews, dissatisfied customers note poor customer service, last-minute cancellations and excessive fees.

9. Frontier Airlines

Frontier Airlines
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Overall score: 0.78 out of 10
On-time arrival rate: 66.2%
Number of complaints: 20.26 per 100 passengers

Frontier is another ultra low-cost carrier, and when it come to customer complaints, it is the clear winner … er, loser. With 20% of its passengers complaining about their experiences, its complaint numbers are double that of any other airline on this list.

This year, one unhappy customer has taken legal action against the company for difficulty in using its “All You Can Fly” pass while others are suing over bag fees.

8. Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines
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Overall score: 0.89 out of 10
On-time arrival rate: 73.13%
Number of complaints: 10.1 per 100 passengers

Last year, budget airline Spirit had announced plans to merge with Frontier, but company shareholders put the kibosh on that plan. Now, the airline is planning to merge with JetBlue instead.

If that merger occurs, Spirit’s routes may change, but it remains to be seen whether it will affect the flying experience, which currently doesn’t seem to be wowing customers.

7. JetBlue Airways

JetBlue Airlines
Markus Mainka /

Overall score: 2.89 out of 10
On-time arrival rate: 63.97%
Number of complaints: 8.96 per 100 passengers

JetBlue Airways doesn’t fare much better than Spirit Airlines on the 2023 Airline Index, although it should be noted that its overall score is significantly better than the bottom three carriers.

Founded in 1999, JetBlue initially only offered economy seats but has since branched out to include five fare classes on its more than 1,000 flights daily. Defined as a budget airline by many, you’ll have to pay for your carry-on if you fly the Basic Blue class, but even your checked bag will be free if you book one of the carrier’s business class Mint seats.

6. American Airlines

American Airlines
Santiparp Wattanaporn /

Overall score: 3.33 out of 10
On-time arrival rate: 77.43%
Number of complaints: 5.41 per 100 passengers

As one of the nation’s legacy carriers, American Airlines has the world’s largest airline fleet with more than 1,000 planes. Earlier this year, the company announced it would add a number of new routes to Europe, the Bahamas and Mexico.

Being large is no guarantee of being great, though, and American Airlines lands firmly in the middle of the pack for the 2023 Airline Index.

5. United Airlines

A United Airlines airplane takes flight
Philip Pilosian /

Overall score: 3.95 out of 10
On-time arrival rate: 79.11%
Number of complaints: 5.54 per 100 passengers

United Airlines is another legacy carrier that lands in the middle of the 2023 Airline Index. The company says it has the most comprehensive route among North American carriers and the most fuel-efficient fleet when adjusted for cabin size. In fact, United has made a commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 100% by 2050.

While some online reviews praise the in-flight experience at United, other customers share dissatisfaction with poor customer service, delayed or cancelled flights and uncomfortable seating.

4. Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines
Philip Pilosian /

Overall score: 4.94 out of 10
On-time arrival rate: 79.05%
Number of complaints: 2.88 per 100 passengers

Alaska Airlines fell two spots in the Bounce ratings, going from No. 2 in 2022 to No. 4 in 2023. Notably, the carrier had the second lowest number of complaints per 100 customers in this year’s index.

Don’t let its name fool you. Alaska Airlines flies to more than 115 destinations in the U.S., Mexico, Costa Rica and Canada. It offers a price guarantee and a 24-hour cancellation policy. The carrier also promises your checked bag will be at the baggage claim area within 20 minutes of arriving at the gate.

3. Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines plane
Markus Mainka /

Overall score: 5.14 out of 10
On-time arrival rate: 76.22%
Number of complaints: 3.58 per 100 passengers

If you want to fly to Hawaii, Hawaiian Airlines is a natural choice. It flies between all the state’s major islands as well as to destinations on theU.S. mainland, in Asia and Oceania.

For the 2023 Airline Index, Hawaiian Airlines dropped from the top spot, which it occupied last year. Still, it has the lowest cancellation rate of all domestic carriers, according to Bounce. What’s more, it has received numerous awards, including a U.S. Department of Transportation No. 1 On-Time Performance designation from 2004-2021.

2. Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines
Eliyahu Yosef Parypa /

Overall score: 5.56 out of 10
On-time arrival rate: 71.77%
Number of complaints: 6.75 per 100 passengers

Southwest Airlines does things a little differently and that may be why it has amassed a dedicated fanbase. Unlike other carriers, Southwest lets you check two bags for free, doesn’t charge for changes or cancellations and awards qualifying frequent flyers with an annual companion pass that lets them bring someone along for a flight for free.

The airline also doesn’t do reserved seating. Instead, people board in order of their group and snag whatever seat they want when getting on the plane.

1. Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines
Tupungato /

Overall score: 6.05 out of 10
On-time arrival rate: 81.82%
Number of complaints: 2.66 per 100 passengers

Taking the top spot in the 2023 Airline Index is Delta Air Lines. The carrier – which flies nearly 200 million travelers to 50 countries – didn’t even make the top three last year.

While Delta Air Lines has the lowest number of complaints per 100 passengers, it’s worth noting that its overall score was still only 6.05. For comparison, the top international carrier, Japan Airlines, scored an 8.28 on a 10-point scale.

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