The ratings for best and worst airlines are constantly evolving. First came the pandemic, then spiking oil costs, like a fabled one-two punch to the airline industry domestically and worldwide.
The airline industry struggled to keep full staff, with shortages of pilots, inflight crew members, gate staff and baggage handlers. Shortages in all those categories led to longer time on the ground at the gate. For many months, there seemed to be little hope to reduce congestion and get planes off and on the ground on time.
Today, business travelers weary of cancellations and delays are choosing on-time departures and arrivals as their top desire, with in-flight amenities such as free in-flight refreshments taking a back seat. The main trend in customer complaints has been lack of timeliness, rather than costs.
We didn’t consider reports of animal-related incidents as we developed our ratings, feeling that animal incidents weren’t a key factor for business travelers. We’ve searched customer satisfaction ratings and compiled a list of the best and worst airlines for business travel.
Airline Industry Rankings
As stated, the ratings are constantly evolving. For example, United Airlines recently inked a new pilot contract which boosts their pay – will that help ease the pilot shortage?
If you want to keep tabs on ratings, based on key findings such as customer complaints and customer satisfaction, the American Customer Satisfaction Index travel report is an easy measure and a good place to start. The ACSI ratings compare the best airlines to the worst airlines, using customer ratings on four major categories, including the reservation process, baggage handling, timely arrivals and inflight amenities.
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Another rating system is the WalletHub score, which includes costs such as inflight amenities, baggage costs, customer service, reliability, price, customer comfort and more.
Choosing the Right Airlines for Business Travel: Our Methodology
When it comes to selecting airlines for your business travel needs, we understand the importance of making a decision that aligns perfectly with your goals. Whether you’re a small business owner or an entrepreneur, your choice of airline can significantly impact your overall travel experience and business productivity. Here are the criteria we believe you should consider, along with their importance on a scale of 1 to 10, when choosing the best airlines for your business travel:
- Reliability (9/10): Ensuring that your flights are consistently on time and that you can rely on the airline’s schedule is paramount for business travelers.
- Cost-effectiveness (8/10): Finding a balance between cost and quality service is crucial. Your budget matters, but so does the value you receive.
- In-Flight Comfort (7/10): Comfortable seating, legroom, and amenities can make long flights more productive and enjoyable.
- Customer Service (7/10): Access to responsive customer support can be a lifesaver when unexpected issues arise during your travels.
- Route Network (8/10): An extensive route network ensures you have options and can reach the destinations that matter most for your business.
- Policies (6/10): Understanding an airline’s policies on baggage, cancellations, and loyalty programs is essential to managing your travel efficiently.
- Amenities (6/10): Depending on your preferences, amenities such as in-flight entertainment, free Wi-Fi, and complimentary snacks can enhance your travel experience.
- Loyalty Programs (5/10): If you’re a frequent traveler, consider enrolling in an airline’s loyalty program for added perks and rewards.
- Special Services (4/10): If your business has unique needs, such as pet transportation or group bookings, check if the airline can accommodate them effectively.
- Flexibility (7/10): Opt for an airline with flexible booking and cancellation policies to adapt to changing business plans.
- Alliances (5/10): If you frequently travel internationally, consider airlines that belong to global alliances for seamless connections and benefits.
- Stay Informed (8/10): Keep up with industry developments to ensure your chosen airline aligns with your business requirements.
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Best and Worst Domestic Airlines for Business
Delta Airlines is the major airline that consistently gets top ratings in most categories.
With our airline ranking, we’ve started with the worst to start the list. However, keep in mind that some choices may be more or less important to a variety of business travelers.
For example, you may choose lower-cost flights over amenities. You’d rather grab a water bottle and snack from a kiosk in the terminal than have such a cost added to the ticket fee. Or, it may be of utmost importance to you to have a comfortable airline seat and free wifi.
We didn’t include American Airlines, as the carrier has been canceling massive numbers of flights, including 700 on one day in late June 2022. American has also dropped service to some major US cities, which will also affect the operations of Envoy Air. Envoy Air is American’s regional carrier.
We didn’t include ratings on two regional carriers, Skywest Airlines and Hawaiian airlines. Skywest Airlines is a leading regional carrier in the U.S. Hawaiian Airlines offers nonstop flights from the US mainland and international locations to Hawaii and back. Both Skywest and Hawaiian have good domestic ratings with low numbers of complaints.
Here are details on the reasons for the ratings of each airline.
8. Spirit Airlines
Spirit Airlines has consistently rated the worst airline for customer service, mainly due to customer complaints about mishandled luggage and denied boardings.
However, airfare costs are inexpensive and there are no free amenities.
7. Frontier Airlines
Frontier Airlines also has low ratings for customer service with complaints about flight delays, baggage mishaps, and a lack of amenities – no wifi, beverages or snacks. However, business class passengers like Frontier for its consistently low ticket prices.
6. JetBlue Airways
JetBlue Airways rates high in onboard comfort with extra legroom in economy class, which enhances the in-flight experience. JetBlue is also offering free amenities with in-flight refreshments, complimentary snacks, inflight entertainment, and wi-fi. Ticket rates are affordable, but the airline has a high number of passenger opinions expressed as complaints about delay rates.
5. Allegiant Air
Allegiant Air transportation gets a good total score as one of the key regional carriers known for flights into smaller, regional airports. In addition to offering that convenient service, Allegiant gets good ratings for its low-cost tickets.
4. United Airlines
As mentioned, the new United Airlines pilot contract boosts their pay. United is rated one of the best airlines for customer comfort level, and is also rated as one of the safest airline choices. During the past year or two, the highest number of passenger complaints involve flight delays or cancellations, but with the new pilot contract, United could become a reliable airline for online departures and arrivals. That may change in the industry, as more airlines undertake the issue of not only pilot wages but wages including gate staff and inflight crews.
3. Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines tops The Points Guy List (travel website rating loyalty programs) and gets high ratings in so many other aspects and major categories. The Points Guy and customers rate Southwest as the best airline for baggage (free) and its no-fee cancellation policy.
2. Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines has top ratings for customer service and is rated the best airline for reliability, in-flight comfort, and price. Alaska Air is rated for having one of the best frequent flyer programs in airline travel circles. Despite its name, it’s not just one of the regional players, with plenty of flight options throughout the country.
1. Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines takes the lead among airlines as the best overall operations, with few instances of mishandled baggage and measures taken to increase passenger comforts, such as comfortable seating and easy reservations and check-ins. Delta is rated the most reliable airline domestically, as far as on-time departures and arrivals. It’s one of the airlines based in nearly all major US cities.
According to opinions expressed by passengers, customer service gets high ratings, with a low number of complaints in that category. Delta topped Alaska airlines, which got the nationwide safety runner-up to Delta.
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The landscape of the airline industry for business travel has seen significant shifts in recent times, driven by a series of challenges, from the pandemic to soaring oil prices. These factors have forced airlines to adapt and evolve their services, impacting the experiences of business travelers.
One prominent trend in the business travel arena is the heightened importance of reliability. Business travelers now prioritize on-time departures and arrivals over other considerations, recognizing that time is of the essence in the fast-paced world of commerce. Timeliness has taken center stage, reflecting a shift away from a focus on costs.
As we’ve delved into the world of airline rankings, we’ve carefully considered various factors and criteria. Our methodology for evaluating and ranking airlines takes into account customer satisfaction ratings and feedback. We’ve looked at key dimensions such as reservation processes, baggage handling, timely arrivals, and in-flight amenities.
It’s worth noting that the rankings we’ve provided are not static; they evolve as the industry does. Recent developments, such as United Airlines’ new pilot contract, have the potential to influence rankings and impact the overall landscape of the airline industry.
For those seeking to stay informed about airline ratings, resources like the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) travel report and the WalletHub score provide valuable insights. These sources offer data-driven evaluations that can guide business travelers in making informed decisions when choosing their preferred airline.
In the ever-changing world of business travel, it’s crucial for small business owners and entrepreneurs to consider a wide range of factors when selecting the right airline. Each criterion we’ve outlined, from reliability to customer service and amenities, plays a unique role in shaping the travel experience. What’s most important may vary from one traveler to another, depending on their specific needs and preferences.
Ultimately, the goal is to choose an airline that aligns with your business objectives, enhances your productivity, and ensures a smooth and efficient journey. By weighing these criteria and staying informed about industry developments, you can make the best decisions for your business travel needs.
As we continue to navigate the dynamic world of business travel, we’ll be here to provide you with valuable insights and guidance to help you make informed choices. Whether it’s selecting the right airline, exploring the best business class options, or staying up-to-date with the latest trends, we’re dedicated to supporting your journey toward successful and hassle-free business travel.
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