These Are the Best and Worst Airlines—Ranked
Find out which carriers made the cut.
You'd think it would be easy for airlines to create a quality experience for their passengers. All they really have to do is transport them from point A to B, on time, with all their luggage intact. But alas, not all airlines are made equal, and your flying experience can vary greatly depending on which carrier you've booked.
To help you plan your next trip, we've ranked all 10 major U.S. airlines, plus the five best and five worst international ones, based on a variety of factors, including on-time arrival percentage, number of routes, and general customer feedback. Safe travels!
Best U.S. Airline (Winner): Delta
With an extensive flight network, an on-time arrival of 85.69 percent in 2019, and a strong lounge game, Delta is our top pick for U.S. carriers. We're particularly partial to its A+ bag tracking system—RFID trackers alert you when your bag's been scanned at a variety of checkpoints, from the cargo hold to the baggage claim conveyor belt.
Best U.S. Airline (Runner-Up): Alaska
Given that Alaska offers guests impeccable service, comfortable cabins, and an on-time arrival of 82.01 percent, passengers absolutely rave about this airline. (We should also mention it has one of the best loyalty programs out there.) The only reason it didn't top Delta? It has far fewer routes.
As the top budget airline, Southwest often has some of the best-value rates around, and passengers are consistently happy with the airline's service. It had a solid 79.4 on-time arrival percentage in 2019, but the airline really stands out for its fare flexibility—it doesn't charge fees for checked bags or flight changes.
Hawaiian actually tops the charts when it comes to on-time arrival percentage—it scored an impressive 87.4 percent in 2019—but it loses a few points with us given its relatively small flight network. The airline does, however, fly to Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, and its inter-Hawaii availability is unmatched.
While JetBlue has great on-board perks like free Wi-Fi, live TV, and unlimited snacks, not to mention pretty comfortable cabins, the airline has the lowest on-time arrival percentage of all U.S. airlines (73.81 percent in 2019).
United came in second to last in terms of on-time arrival percentage, with only 76.28 percent of flights arriving on time in 2019. (You can blame the weather in its hub, Chicago.) But the airline does have a vast route network and solid cabin design. It's pretty middle of the road across the board.
Though low-cost carrier Allegiant is pretty bare-bones—it has a limited schedule, charges for add-ons like carry-on bags and seat selection, and isn't the strongest contender for on-time arrival percentage (78.97 percent in 2019)—it gets the job done for a reasonable fare.
Of the three major domestic airlines, American has the most dings against it. It has a slightly higher on-time arrival percentage than United, but it has more overall cancellations, lost bags, and bumped passengers. That said, it does have the most routes of all U.S. carriers.
Passengers might heap hate on Spirit Airlines for its lackluster performance, from lengthy delays and cramped seats to nickel-and-diming policies, but they do love its super affordable airfare. Interestingly, Spirit comes in fourth place overall for on-time percentage—79.42 percent in 2019—but the negative flight experiences reported by passengers prevent the airline from rising higher on our list.
Worst U.S. Airline: Frontier
Like Spirit, Frontier is a budget airline that delivers on its promise for low prices, but not much else. In 2019, only 74.4 percent of its flights arrived on time, and it had a relatively high rate of passengers bumped from its flights. As such, Frontier has earned a poor reputation among its customers, who are quick to complain about the airline.
Best International Airline (Winner): Qatar
Qatar's QSuite is the cream of the crop when it comes to business-class cabins—it was the first airline to debut a suite-style seat with a closing door—but it's also a world-class airline in terms of its friendly crew, dining and entertainment options, and spacious economy cabins.
Best International Airline (Runner-Up): Singapore Airlines
Singapore is a perennial favorite of frequent fliers, who appreciate the airline's dedication to comfort, from the seats in all classes to the stellar service by the renowned cabin crews. After all, comfort is a must when you're flying the world's longest route—the 19-hour trek between Newark and Singapore.
While some flyers avoid airline food at all costs, that'd be a mistake on Cathay Pacific, which taps star Hong Kong chefs to craft its menus (its business-class burger is a particular standout). Delicious meals aside, you can expect thoughtfully designed cabins across all classes and warm service.
In-flight shower? Check. In-flight bar? Check. Of course, those perks are only available for travelers who shell out the big bucks for first-class (for the former) or business-class (for the latter) on A380 aircraft, but they're certainly worth the splurge. Even if you're in economy, you'll find more comfortable seats than you would on most domestic carriers.
Air New Zealand
It's no surprise that Air New Zealand excels at long-haul flights—the island nation is rather remote. Passengers rave about Air New Zealand's hospitality (each class is served Kiwi wine) and comfortable seating options, including the Skycouch, a row of economy seats that can be turned into a sofa-like lounge.
Worst International Airline: Tunisair
Though Tunisair has a great safety rating (6.5 out of seven stars, according to AirlineRatings), its product and its service leave much to be desired. The airline is notorious for running behind schedule—in 2018, the year for which we have the most recent data, only 40.56 percent of its flights arrived on time, with the average delay coming in at 69 minutes.
Worst International Airline (Runner-Up): Nepal Airlines
As a whole, plane travel is incredibly safe, but Nepal's handful of airlines, including its national carrier, Nepal Airlines, have pretty abysmal records. Of course, that comes with the territory—the mountainous nation has difficult terrain for takeoffs and landings. Flights are often delayed or canceled due to poor (and sometimes unpredictable) weather, but in our opinion, it's better safe than sorry.
Pakistan International Airlines
If you're flying on Pakistan International Airlines, you only have about a 60 percent chance that your flight will actually land on time (things have apparently improved since 2015, when you had a 37 percentage chance of an on-time arrival). Punctuality aside, the airline also lacks basic on-board services and amenities.
TAP Air Portugal
Overall, TAP Air Portugal isn't the worst airline out there, but for a major international carrier, it offers some pretty terrible service. Customers report lengthy delays, mishandled baggage, and old planes with visible wear and tear. As The Points Guy put it: "Never again." The plus side? The crew is friendly and helpful.
You get what you pay for on U.K.-based budget airline EasyJet. Only 72.89 percent of its flights were on time in 2018, which, in the grand scheme of things, isn't as awful as some of the other airlines on this list. But where it really struggles is in its claim processing—if you're flying EasyJet to or from the E.U., there are great compensation rules for flight delays, but you'll have to fight tooth and nail with the airline to ever get that payout.
And to make sure you don't have a bad flight, check out these 17 Terrible Mistakes You're Making When Booking Flights Online.