The best domestic and international airlines in the US
Are you looking to book your next vacation? Do you want to fly in comfort to your chosen destination, arriving on time with no hassle?
Well, choosing the right airline is a must for your next vacation to get off to a flying start! The reliability of airlines can vary hugely from company to company, as can the quality of onboard comfort, service, and entertainment, all of which contribute to a fantastic laying experience.
With all this in mind, we wanted to update our Airline Index to reveal the best and worst companies to fly with for both domestic and international travel. We’ve compared 60 airlines across various factors, from the number of on-time arrivals to the quality of in-flight catering, to bring you the up-to-date 2023 Airline Index.
The highest-ranked international airlines
1. Japan Airlines | Airline Index Score: 8.28
Japan Airlines is the highest-ranking international airline for 2023, with an overall score of 8.28. Japan Airlines scored a consistent 4 out of 5 across in-flight entertainment, meals, seat comfort, and staff service while also having one of the best records for on-time arrivals at 88.36%.
In addition to these impressive statistics, Japan Airlines also has a low level of flight cancellations at 1.56%, as well as one of the most generous baggage allowances. Economy class passengers are entitled to 10kg of carry-on luggage, in addition to 46kg of checked baggage for both domestic and international flights.
Japan Airlines offers many direct routes from the United States to Japan, with destinations including major transport hubs such as Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya, from which you can transfer to a broader range of more than 37 Japanese cities. These include popular tourist destinations like Hiroshima and Fukuoka, as well as a number of cities in Southeast Asia, such as Bangkok.
2. Singapore Airlines | Airline Index Score: 7.63
Singapore Airlines is the second-highest-ranked airline in our 2023 index, scoring 7.63. Passengers who fly with Singapore Airlines benefit from a 7kg of carry-on luggage allowance and 30kg of checked baggage for economy class ticket holders. The airline performed well across all in-flight categories, receiving 4 out of 5 for each. The airline also retains the joint-best cancellation rate at just 0.03%, which it shares with 19th-place Iberia.
Singapore Airlines operates flights to more than 70 cities in over 30 countries worldwide. While the airline boasts fantastic coverage of Southern and Eastern Asia, you can take a Singapore Airlines flight to destinations all around the globe, from Sydney, Australia, to Cairo, Egypt, or even Cape Town, South Africa.
3. Qatar Airways | Airline Index Score: 7.50
Qatar Airways is the third-highest-rated airline in our 2023 Airline Index, with an overall score of 7.50. Like Japan Airlines and Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways scored 4 out of 5 for in-flight, entertainment, meals, seat comfort, and staff service while recording one of the lowest cancellation rates at just 0.33%. Combine this with an on-time arrivals rate of 77.51% and 46 kg of checked baggage on international flights, Qatar Airways quickly becomes one of the best choices for an easy and enjoyable flying experience.
Qatar Airways operates flights to more than 90 countries worldwide from its home at Doha Hamad International Airport. The airline’s flagship route is from Doha to London Heathrow, though Qatar Airways also operates flights to several US destinations, including New York, Chicago, and Dallas.
The lowest-ranked international airlines
1. Wings Air | Airline Index Score: 0.37
Wings Air has the lowest index score in 2023, at just 0.37 out of 10. The airline had the lowest on-time arrival rate at 47.69%, and the second-highest cancellation rate at 15.91%. This means that flying with Wing Air is risky if you’re on a tight schedule or have connections you need to make.
In addition to its low reliability, Wing Air doesn’t offer free checked baggage to economy passengers, and the in-flight meals and entertainment only scored 1 out of 5. While the airline did achieve a respectable 3 out of 5 for seat comfort, the company’s in-flight staff service received a score of 2 out of 5.
2. Lion Air | Airline Index Score: 0.61
Lion Air is the second-lowest-rated airline in our 2023 index, receiving a score of just 0.61. Fewer than half of all flights operated by Lion Air arrived on time, while as many as 20.01% of flights were outright canceled, leaving travelers’ plans in disarray. However, Lion Air is one of the few low-cost airlines to include checked baggage in some of their economy-class tickets, with passengers on domestic flights able to take one bag weighing up to 20kg.
3. Jetstar Airways | Airline Index Score: 0.94
Jetstar Airways is the third-lowest-rated airline in our study, with an index score of just 0.94. This low-cost airline based out of Melbourne, Australia, also scored poorly for its reliability, with just 62.73% of flights arriving on time with a cancellation rate of 7.3%. Like Wings Air, Jetstar Airways does not offer free checked bags in its ticket price, and carry-on is limited to 7kg.
The highest-ranked domestic airlines
1. Delta Air Lines | Domestic Airline Score: 6.05
Delta Airlines is the highest-rated domestic airline in the United States, with an index score of 6.05. Delta recorded the highest % of on-time arrivals at 81.82% and one of the lowest cancellation rates at 1.96%. Delta Airlines also recorded the highest scores for its in-flight experience, earning a 3 out of 5 for its in-flight entertainment, meals, seat comfort, and staff service. It also recorded the lowest level of passenger complaints at just 2.66 per 100.
Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, Delta operates over 1.5 million flights each year to destinations all over the United States, making it one of the largest airlines in the country.
2. Southwest Airlines | Domestic Airline Score: 5.56
Southwest Airlines is the second highest-rated domestic airline in the 2023 Airline Index, with a score of 5.56. Southwest’s record for inflight experience was mostly positive, scoring 3 out of 5 for meals, seat comfort, and staff service, though the airline only collected a score of 2 out of 5 for its in-flight entertainment. Where the airline truly excels is its baggage allowance, with no weight restrictions on carry-on luggage. At the same time, economy class passengers can enjoy up to 46 kg of bags on domestic and international flights.
Southwest Airlines is based in Dallas, Texas, and operates flights to many locations across the United States, as well as being a popular carrier for trips to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Havana, Cuba, and Cancun, Mexico, are some of the standout international destinations served by Southwest Airlines.
3. Hawaiian Airlines | Domestic Airline Score: 5.14
Hawaiian Airlines is the third-highest-ranked domestic airline in the United States, earning a score of 5.14 in this year’s airline index. The airline has the lowest cancellation rate of all domestic carriers at just 0.64% and a middling rate of on-time arrivals at 76.22%. There is no free checked luggage allowance for economy class passengers, though carry-on baggage can be up to 11.5kg. Hawaiian Airlines also excels in customer satisfaction, with a relatively low complaints rate of 3.58 per 100 passengers.
Headquartered in Honolulu, Hawaiian Airlines provides a vital transport connection to all the main Hawaiian islands. The airline also provides a direct link to the US mainland and many West Coast cities, as well as Boston, New York, and Austin. In total, Hawaiian Airlines serves 20 domestic destinations and 11 international destinations across eight countries, ranging from Auckland, New Zealand, to the northern Japanese city of Sapporo.
The lowest-ranked domestic airlines
1. Allegiant Air | Domestic Airline Score: 0.74
Of the ten major carriers in our study, Allegiant Air ranked as the worst domestic airline in the United States, with an overall score of 0.74 out of 10. Allegiant performed the worst for both reliability factors, with just 64.08% of flights arriving on time and a cancellation rate of 4.42%. However, while the airline does not include any checked baggage in its ticket prices, it does not have a set weight limit for carry-on luggage, though size limitations do apply.
Allegiant Air is based in Summerlin, Nevada, and operates flights out of over 120 airports across 42 states. As a low-cost carrier, Allegiant Air does not offer flights to international destinations or the non-contiguous United States, such as Alaska and Hawaii.
2. Frontier Airlines | Domestic Airline Score: 0.78
Frontier Airlines received the second-lowest overall score of all US domestic airlines, with just 0.78 out of 10. Frontier’s worst-performing area was complaints, with the airline receiving the highest figure of 20.26 complaints per 100 passengers. There is no luggage allowance included on Frontier flights for either carry-on or checked baggage, and the airline also scored just 1 out of 5 for its in-flight meals and entertainment.
Frontier Airlines, based in Denver, Colorado, supplies an ultra-low-cost option for travelers on a budget. Frontier operates flights from over 100 cities and includes destinations across the United States, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.
3. Spirit Airlines | Domestic Airline Score: 0.89
The domestic airline with the third lowest overall score is Spirit Airlines, which received a score of 0.89 out of 10. Like Frontier Airlines, Spirit offers no free baggage allowance to its customers, including carry-on, with the airline scoring a 1 out of 5 for its in-flight meals and entertainment. Regarding reliability, 73.13% of flights arrived on time, and the cancellation rate was 2.85%, neither of which stands among the worst scores. However, Spirit Airlines recorded the second-highest rate of complaints at 10.1 per 100 passengers.
Spirit Airlines is headquartered in Miramar, Florida, and operates flights out of over 90 cities. You can fly with Spirit Airlines to destinations across the contiguous United States, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and parts of South America such as Bogotá, Colombia, and even as far as Lima, Peru.
2022 vs. 2023 results
This year, Japan Airlines have surged to the top of the table with an excellent score of 8.28, unseating the 2022 winner, Singapore Airlines, which dropped to second place with a score of 7.63, showing a slight year-on-year decrease of 0.06 points.
All Nippon Airways dropped four places from second in 2022 to sixth in 2023 as its score fell from 7.48 to 6.23, a decrease of 0.75 points. Meanwhile, Korean Air fell out of the top 3 to fourth place, despite its score remaining the same at 7.19, with Qatar Airways climbing into third place with a point increase of 0.47 from 7.03 in 2022 to its current score of 7.50.
Delta Air Lines is the top-rated domestic airline in this year’s Airline Index, which climbed up the ranking from fourth place with a point increase of 1.14 from 4.91 in 2022 to 6.05 in 2023. Hawaiian Airlines dropped from first place in 2022 with a score of 5.64 to third place in 2023, following a 0.50-point decrease to 5.14.
Last year’s second-highest-ranked domestic airline, Alaska Airlines, has fallen two spots to fourth place following a decrease from 5.18 in 2022 to 4.94 in 2023. Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines’ score increased by 0.56 points to 5.56 in 2023, climbing from third place to second in this year’s index.
We wanted to recreate our annual Airline Index for 2023 with the latest and most up-to-date data. 52 airlines were included in our international comparison, including the top 50 airlines by number of flights and two airlines that made the top three in our 2022 edition, while the domestic airline section includes 10 of the largest airlines in the United States. Chinese Airlines were excluded from the international section due to COVID travel restrictions only lifted in early 2023, which would have unfairly impacted the results.
Note: this report considers 62 of the largest airlines in the world (by departures). There are over 5,000 airlines registered with ICAO codes across the world.
On-time arrivals % and cancelation % were recorded from OAG.com. Data was calculated by averaging the monthly data across 2022.
Meals, inflight entertainment, seat comfort, and staff service ratings are rated out of 5 and recorded from Skytrax.com.
Please note exact baggage weights for each airline vary depending on ticket class and destination. The figures recorded are for economy fares. Weights were taken directly from each airline's website or alternativeairlines.com. Where carry-on weight was not specified, but bags must fit under a seat, the field was left blank and not used to calculate the final index score.
For US airlines, complaint numbers for 2022 were recorded from The Office Of Aviation Consumer Protection.