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Yet Another Survey Picks Virgin America as Best Airline

Another day, another survey designed to put the airlines in rank order, from best to worst. And another win for Virgin America, which will soon be merged into Alaska Airlines.

The latest in the ever-growing list of such airline rankings comes from WalletHub, “The Web’s Best Personal Finance Resource.” Like the Airline Quality Rating report, published annually by professors at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical and Wichita State universities, the WalletHub findings are based largely on data compiled by the DOT for its monthly Air Travel Consumer Report. That’s either a strength or a weakness of both studies, depending on whether or not the DOT data are considered sufficiently comprehensive and meaningful.

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WalletHub factors in other data as well—price, legroom, and WiFi availability, for example, as well as animal losses, injuries, and deaths—and assigns different weights to factors considered in both studies, so the outcomes differ. But not much.

The five top-rated airlines in both studies are the same, although the order differs slightly. Virgin America and JetBlue ranked highest and second-highest, respectively. Alaska, Hawaiian, and Delta were the next-best rated.

The complete WalletHub list:

  1. Virgin America
  2. JetBlue
  3. Alaska
  4. Hawaiian
  5. Delta
  6. Southwest
  7. Envoy Air
  8. SkyWest
  9. Frontier
  10. Spirit
  11. ExpressJet
  12. American
  13. United

If there are any surprises in the WalletHub results, they’re to be found at the bottom of the list, where Spirit and Frontier, two carriers that routinely underperform their peers, were ranked ahead of American and United, two airlines that are usually rated mid-pack.

Time will tell whether Spirit and Frontier are improving, or whether this survey’s results are anomalous. What seems uncontestable, however, is Virgin America’s position atop the list. And the sad take-away: Enjoy the country’s best airline while you can.

Reader Reality Check

How do these results accord with your own experience?

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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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