The top-10 of US airlines in 2016

Alaska AirlinesMost airline rankings are a way of making money, a form of entertainment or a way of generating free publicity. In some cases it is a combination. Rankings rarely offer anything new or useful, but (TPG) is an exception.

TPG published a top-10 of US carriers based on their domestic operations. The website uses 10 objective factors, while it explicitly mentions those factors’ weights (in parentheses): airfare (25%), route networks (15%), bag and change fees (10%), cabin comfort (10%), customer satisfaction (10%), frequent flyer program (10%), on-time arrivals (10%), lost baggage (5%), domestic lounges (3%) and involuntary bumps (2%).

TPG admits that customer satisfaction is by its nature a subjective judgment made by customers, but it considers that the number of customer complaints is an objective criterion. And it recognizes that this is a self-selecting data set as it only reflects people who took the time to file a complaint with the US Department of Transportation (DOT).

The novelty of TPG’s ranking is that it presents an interactive tool that lets users customize which factors are most important to them.

You can reduce or increase, for example, the weight of bag and change fees from 10% to any other percentage to bring it in line with your personal preference. Next, you can check the result of this change for the ranking.

You can do so with any other of the criteria used. However, as the total should remain 100% you need to adjust the weight of 1 or more other factors accordingly.

TPG claims that it converted raw data totals for each criteria to a simple 10 to 1 scale, with 10 at the top and 1 at the bottom. But they fail to reveal individual airlines’ scores.

Below you will find the TPG ranking as well as consumer survey results from market research company J.D. Power, whose 2016 J.D. Power North America Airline Satisfaction Study is highly regarded when it comes to studying the opinions of airline customers.

Thus, you can check how those perceptions stand up to TPG’s objective look at the data. Note that J.D. Power does not include Spirit, Hawaiian and Virgin America in its survey. Obviously, travelers rank United Airlines considerably lower than TPG.

Top-10 US airlines (domestic operations)

TPG J.D. Power survey
Alaska Airlines 1 3
United Airlines 2 8
Virgin America 3 -
JetBlue 4 1
American Airlines 5 6
Southwest Airlines 6 2
Delta Air Lines 7 4
Hawaiian Airlines 8 -
Frontier Airlines 9 9
Spirit Airlines 10 -

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