This Is the Best Airline in North America, According to Travelers

Nearly 10,000 airline passengers ranked their flying experience during the past year. Here’s which airlines came out on top—and which did not.

Overhead view of Delta One suites with window shades open and bright light coming into the airplane cabin

This U.S. airline was voted best for first, business, and premium economy service.

Courtesy of Delta

It’s been yet another rocky year for the airlines amid a parade of troubling headlines ranging from problems with Boeing aircraft to concerns about cancellations and delays as we head into what could be a record-breaking summer for air travel. So, it may come as little surprise that fliers have mixed feelings about the airlines these days.

Despite the adverse headlines and persistent problems with air travel crowds, when it comes to which airlines performed best in terms of overall passenger satisfaction this past year, “airlines that are investing in staff training and recruitment are finding ways to overcome the negative effects,” stated Michael Taylor, senior managing director of travel, hospitality, retail, and customer service for J.D. Power, which on Wednesday released its 2024 North America Airline Satisfaction Study.

With customer service top of mind, the study found that the airline North America travelers currently rate highest for first, business, and premium economy service is Delta Air Lines. For the economy and basic economy category, Southwest Airlines claimed the top spot.

The report was based on a survey that was conducted from March 2023 to March 2024 and that gathered responses from 9,582 passengers who had flown with a major North American airline within the past month. It found that overall satisfaction scores for trust in the airlines were 400 points lower (based on a 1,000-point scale) among passengers who viewed negative news coverage of an airline’s performance this past year—so clearly the headlines are taking a toll.

In general, airlines scored much lower this year than last. Last year, the lowest any individual airline scored was 705 points (Frontier’s score in the economy and basic economy category), and the highest score was 893 points, for JetBlue in the first- and business-class category. This year, however, scores ranged from a low of 472 points to a high of just 743 points. That could be in part because the factors being ranked have also changed. Last year, travelers were asked to rank based on eight factors, including aircraft, baggage handling, boarding process, check-in process, cost and fees, flight crew, in-flight services, and reservations and booking.

For the 2024 North America Airline Satisfaction Study, overall passenger satisfaction was measured based on these seven factors:

  • Airline staff
  • Digital tools
  • Ease of travel
  • Level of trust
  • Onboard experience
  • Pre-/post-flight experience
  • Value for priced paid

The study divides passenger satisfaction ratings into three segments: first and business; premium economy; and economy and basic economy. Across all three segments, the biggest priority for fliers this past year was the desire to get to where they’re going safely and with little worry.

“The two biggest factors driving overall airline customer satisfaction are ease of travel and trust,” the study stated. “While things like value for price paid are important, it is more important to passengers just to have a seamless flight.”

And service is key. The J.D. Power study found that the airlines that topped the rankings in this year’s study have made “substantial investments in the people side of their business.”

In the J.D. Power 2024 North America Airline Satisfaction Study, the points are based on a 1,000-point scale. Here’s how the airlines stacked up.

The best North America airlines for first and business class

  1. Delta Air Lines (743 points)
  2. JetBlue Airways (736 points)
  3. United Airlines (698 points)
  4. Alaska Airlines (695 points)
  5. American Airlines (676 points)
  6. Air Canada (629 points)

The best North America airlines for premium economy

  1. Delta Air Lines (716 points)
  2. Alaska Airlines (687 points)
  3. American Airlines (684 points)
  4. JetBlue Airways (667 points)
  5. WestJet (664 points)
  6. United Airlines (641 points)
  7. Air Canada (628 points)

The best North America airlines for economy and basic economy

  1. Southwest Airlines (685 points)
  2. Delta Air Lines (651 points)
  3. Allegiant Air (633 points)
  4. Alaska Airlines (630 points)
  5. JetBlue Airways (630 points)
  6. American Airlines (611 points)
  7. WestJet (591 points)
  8. United Airlines (585 points)
  9. Air Canada (542 points)
  10. Spirit Airlines (507 points)
  11. Frontier Airlines (472 points)

This story was originally published in May 2023 and was updated on May 8, 2024, to include current information.

Michelle Baran is a deputy editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
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