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BUSINESS TRAVEL

Which Airlines You Should (and Shouldn't) Fly

New data sheds light on which airlines are best at getting passengers and their luggage where they need to go--and which ones to avoid.

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Coming off the winter storms that plagued the Midwest and East Coast last week, memories of excruciatingly long hours spent in airport terminals are fresh in many minds right now.

There is no denying it, traveling can be a nightmare. But for many businesspeople, travel is not just something to deal with during the holidays or the occasional vacation, but part of a lifestyle. Knowing which airlines are the best at transporting travelers from Point A to Point B is crucial.

The Wall Street Journal did an extensive recap of how nine major U.S. carriers fared in airline efficacy in 2013 based on data from FlightStats, a global flight tracking company, and the U.S. Department of Transportation. The overall ranks were, from best to worst:

1. Alaska

2. Delta

3. Virgin American

4. Southwest

5. JetBlue

6. US Airways

7. Frontier

8. American

9. United

According to the Journal, about 78 percent of flights on U.S. airlines arrived on time in 2013, a drop from 80 percent in 2012. The article also covered an array of statistics beyond on-time arrivals. Based on the FlightStats data from more than 8 million flights, it ranked the airlines in terms of extreme delays (defined as more than 45 minutes), canceled flights, mishandled bags, bumped passengers, complaints, and two-hour tarmac delays. 

For the avid traveler, the full WSJ article is worth a read, but here are a few of the major takeaways: 

  • In 2013, Delta had the lowest percentage of canceled flights, with Frontier in second place. American had the highest percentage of canceled flights. 
  • Southwest mishandled more bags than Delta and United combined over the 12-month period ending October 2013 that the Department of Transportation examined. (Southwest is, however, the lone airline that still offers passengers two free checked bags, and the carrier that received the fewest complaints, WSJ reported.) Virgin American had the fewest mishandled bags over the period. 
  • Although JetBlue was the worst airline in terms of extreme delays, it was the best in the bumped passengers category. 
  • Alaska had the fewest extreme delays and two-hour tarmac delays; JetBlue and US Airways ranked last in these categories, respectively. 
Last updated: Jan 9, 2014

ABIGAIL TRACY is a staff reporter for Inc. magazine. Previously, she worked for Seattle Metropolitan magazine and Chicago magazine.
@abigailtracy




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