It doesn't take much to ruin an air travel experience. And while problems like lost bags or late flights are often unpredictable, some airlines are more reliable than others. To give travelers a better idea of how the nation's top airlines stack up, the 26th annual Airline Quality Rating has been made available online [PDF], the Associated Press reports.
Using 2015 data from the Department of Transportation, Dean Headley, a marketing professor at Wichita State University, and Brent Bowen, dean of the aviation school at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, looked at the rates of late flights, lost baggage, bumped passengers, and complaints for 13 of the largest airlines in the United States. Here's how they ranked:
1. Virgin America (ranked 1 in 2014)
2. JetBlue (4)
3. Delta (3)
4. Hawaiian (2)
5. Alaska (5)
6. Southwest (6)
7. SkyWest (10)
8. United (9)
9. ExpressJet (11)
10. American (7)
11. Frontier (8)
12. Envoy Air (12)
13. Spirit (n/a)
Virgin America topped the list for the fourth year in a row, despite dropping in three of the four areas since last year. Their most impressive performance was in luggage: In 2015, 0.84 out of every 1000 bags were mishandled compared to 0.95 out of 1000 in 2014.
Hawaiian Airlines, ranked second overall, had the most on-time flights. JetBlue had the lowest rate of bumped passengers, and Alaska Airlines had the least customer complaints.
Of course, these aren't the only factors travelers should take into account when choosing airlines. For some, leg room, food options, and in-flight amenities are all top priorities. For others, all bets are off the moment they find a good deal.