There's lots of good news for Southwest Airlines in a new U.S. passenger survey--and some pretty good news as well for big rivals in the sky like Delta, American, and United.

But the survey also points to a surprising alternative that people say they actually prefer over any of the big airlines.

First the airlines, and what Americans really think of them. Then, the way Americans would actually rather travel--along with a few other interesting survey results, and what they might mean for business opportunities.

(Related: Millennials rate Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines higher than Apple or any other tech company, when it comes to employment.)

Good news for Southwest, Delta, American, and United

Nearly half of Americans in the new survey of 2,202 adults, 49 percent, said they have a favorable view of Southwest Airlines. American, Delta, and United really were not far behind, at 47 percent, 46 percent, and 43 percent, respectively.

Not so great: JetBlue, with a 32 percent favorability rating, and Alaska, Frontier and Spirit, at 27 percent, 21 percent, and 17 percent. 

The top four airlines are also "neck and neck when it comes to purchasing consideration," according to an accompanying statement from the pollster, Morning Consult.

The survey of 2,202 adults was conducted June 4-5, by the way, so Americans' reaction to the fatal Southwest incident in April aboard Flight 1380 would have been included in their perceptions.

But you know what we'd rather do?

There's a lot more in the study, but the most surprising data is what Americans prefer over all the airlines: Driving themselves.

Far more Americans said that they find traveling by car to be "fun" (67 percent), "comfortable" (74 percent), "appropriately priced" (82 percent), "efficient" (78 percent), and with "minimal hassle" (74 percent), than traveling by airplane (or train or bus).

In fact, Americans really don't like flying very much in general anymore, with just 41 percent saying that mode of transportation sounded like "fun." Only busses fared worse, at 33 percent.

The bright side in that data for the airlines however, comes in two striking results:

  • Americans in general ranked Hawaii as their #1 U.S. destination (71 percent either "very interested" or "somewhat interested" in going there), and 
  • The trend is toward foreign vacation travel, as a far greater percentage of younger travelers said they are more interested in traveling outside the U.S. than within it. For Gen Z, 56 percent would rather travel abroad, and for Millennials the figure is 50 percent; that's compared to 35 percent of Gen X and just 32 percent of Boomers.

Good luck getting to Hawaii, Europe, or Asia by car. 

Other travel and business trends

Maybe you're not in the travel industry. But if you're like me, constantly thinking of business ideas and trying to test them, there are a few data points you might factor into your considerations--especially if you're thinking of doing anything in travel. 

  • The beach is hot: U.S. vacation goers across all ages reacted most positively to the ideas of trips involving the beach and resorts (roughly 70 to 78 percent had either "a lot" or "some" interest in these kinds of trips).
  • Golf is not: On the other hand, 50 percent of Americans said they had no interest at all in golf, and another 21 percent said they had "not much" interest.
  • Flying is getting worse: People think flying is continually getting safer, but that otherwise it's becoming a worse and worse experience. And, they think it's getting more expensive.
  • Hotels still win: Weirdly, far more people recognize the brand Motel 6 (92 percent), than have even heard of Airbnb (72 percent). As you might guess, younger Americans are much more inclined to use Airbnb, however. 

It's worth poring through the report, which you can find here. Let us know in the comments if you find any other interesting data points to share.