Flying can be stressful — and expensive — but some airlines provide better flight experiences than others. GOBankingRates analyzed The Points Guy’s ranking of best and worst U.S. airlines in 2018, which was based on airfare, bag and change fees, route network, on-time arrivals, cabin comfort, customer satisfaction, lost baggage, involuntary bumps, frequent flyer program and lounges, to determine which airlines are the best and worst for domestic travel.
An example of a one-way flight cost was provided for each airline, with the route being Los Angeles to New York as it is the busiest domestic route, according to Routes Online. In the case of Hawaiian Airlines, the flight price example is Los Angeles to Honolulu as they do not travel from Los Angeles to New York.
Click through to find out the best and worst airlines for international flights — and see how these domestic airlines rank.
Best: Alaska Airlines
Cost to fly Los Angeles to New York: $203
Alaska has earned the top spot on the list, making it the best airline to fly domestic. Alaska Airlines’ amenities include power outlets at every seat on most flights, complimentary snacks and beverages, free movies and TV shows and free texting. WiFi is also available for purchase, as are meals created by chef Tom Douglas. Alaska also has the best low-tier, mid-tier and high-tier airline rewards program. Alaska Airlines was named the winner in all categories because its frequent flyer rewards points are based on flying rather than spending like most other airlines’ rewards programs, so you can get a free flight if you travel enough.
Cost to fly Los Angeles to New York: $233
You don’t need to know insider airport secrets to have a pleasant travel experience with Southwest. The airline recently upgraded its cabins to be more comfortable and eco-friendly. The bottom seat cushion has been redesigned to offer more cushion and lumbar support, and there are fixed-wing headrests to offer more relaxation. In addition, seat-back pockets have been replaced with netting to provide extra leg room. All flights serve complimentary peanuts, pretzels and non-alcoholic beverages. Southwest also ranks highly for having cheap flights.
It is worth noting that Southwest did face a fatal safety issue when, in April, an engine exploded and blew out a window during a Dallas-bound flight.
Cost to fly Los Angeles to New York: $157
Delta is tied with United for the lowest airfare for a cross-country domestic flight. It has complimentary premium entertainment on its airline flights, including HBO and Showtime, plus free snacks on flights over 250 miles. Delta also serves complimentary Starbucks-brand coffee, Coca-Cola products, juices and water.
Cost to fly Los Angeles to New York: $157
In addition to having cheap tickets for a cross-country flight, United offers several free amenities that make it one of the best airlines for domestic travel. It has upgraded its in-flight experience with enhanced food and beverage menus, private screening options for entertainment, expanded WiFi and a new look for the plane interiors, which includes larger overhead bins, more in-seat power outlets, new carpet and mood lighting.
Cost to fly Los Angeles to New York: $205
Frontier is known for its low fares, and the company has improved flight comfort as well with its new “stretch seating.” Available for an extra fee, it provides five to seven inches of extra legroom, a full comfort recline and a laptop-friendly space. Those who opt for stretch seating are the first to get off the aircraft and the first to receive in-flight services.
Worst: American Airlines
Cost to fly Los Angeles to New York: $184
Main cabin seats come with free snacks, soft drinks and entertainment. However, the lowest price tickets — basic economy — come with some restrictions, including no overhead bin space, fees for seat selection and boarding in the last group.
Cost to fly Los Angeles to New York: $164
Spirit received a low ranking because of its baggage fees. It charges for checked and carry-on bags, and baggage fees vary depending on when and how you pay for them. The standard fare to bring a carry-on bag ranges from $35 to $65, and the standard fare for a checked bag ranges from $30 to $65.
Cost to fly Los Angeles to New York: $257
JetBlue flights include free brand-name snacks and drinks, movies, DIRECTV, SiriusXM Radio and WiFi. It also has the best coach seats in terms of leg room. However, the airline doesn’t have a higher ranking because its flights are expensive: JetBlue has the most expensive Los Angeles to New York plane tickets compared to the other airlines on this list. It also doesn’t offer as many routes as competitor airlines, and it doesn’t have a great frequent flyer program.
Worst: Hawaiian Airlines
Cost to fly Los Angeles to Honolulu: $339
Hawaiian Airlines offers complimentary meals, in-flight entertainment and duty-free shopping, but the airline has a limited number of air routes that don’t go where the average traveler needs to go. Although it might offer convenient flights for travelers going to and from Hawaii, it simply doesn’t offer enough domestic flight routes to be considered one of the best airlines for domestic travel.
Click through to read more about the best time to book your travel plans.
Methodology: Flight prices were sourced from Google Flights for a one-way trip from Los Angeles to New York on June 1, 2018. Southwest flight prices were not available on Google Flights, so prices were sourced directly from Southwest.com. Hawaiian Airlines does not travel from Los Angeles to New York, so prices represent the least expensive Los Angeles to Hawaii flight available on June 1, 2018. Prices were sourced on April 5, 2018.
Rankings are based on The Points Guy’s list of “The Best and Worst U.S. Airlines in 2018.” Data from the list was pulled from the OAG’s annual Punctuality League Report; Department of Transportation data on mishandled bags, passengers who are involuntarily denied boarding and customer complaints; DOT Bureau of Statistics data on baggage and change fees, airline financial data and route networks; the Routehappy public database on cabin comfort ratings; and The Points Guy data on frequent flyer programs. Rankings were based on airfare (25 percent), bag and change fees (10 percent), route network (15 percent), on-time arrivals (10 percent), cabin comfort (10 percent), customer satisfaction (10 percent), lost baggage (5 percent), involuntary bumps (2 percent), frequent flyer program (10 percent) and lounges (3 percent).
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