Reliability is one of the most crucial factors when choosing an airline. We analyzed the following for 2022 and the first half of 2023 to get the all-important AirAdvisor Reliability Score:
And we found that:
After our team of 5 skilled researchers compiled and reviewed the data over a period of many weeks, we are finally able to tell you the 3 most reliable airlines in the USA and how the other major US carriers stack up.
If you’re looking for the most reliable airline in 2022 and 2023 overall, that title is awarded to Delta Airlines, who had the highest on-time flight percentage - 83.52% (2022) and 80.18% (2023).
Delta also tops the list for the lowest percentage of delayed flights, which you might expect with such a solid on-time rate. This is especially good to know when you’re making plans for activities or events close to your arrival time or booking connecting flights.
Although Delta scored top overall, the airline is steadily in the middle of the pack for mishandled bags. They also rank among the worst for denied boarding, but the percentages are very small - 0.05% in 2022 and 0.07% in 2023. So, while they may have one of the highest rates of denied boarding, it still doesn’t happen all that often.
When we take into account all our factors, Hawaiian Airlines ranks #2 in the US. This Honolulu-based carrier definitely excels in handling baggage and is among the best at avoiding denied boarding.
Hawaiian Airlines had the lowest percentage of canceled flights in both years, but their relatively low scores for delayed flights and their on-time percentage keep Hawaiian out of the top spot.
While your flight might be delayed, it’s likely it won’t be canceled, and you won’t be denied boarding. You’ll also have one of the best chances of getting your bags once you arrive, which is never a bad thing.
United Airlines is awarded the third spot on our list, and it’s safe to say that 2022 was a better year for them than the first half of 2023. In 2022, for on-time percentage and delayed percentage, United was second to our winner, Delta. In 2023, those numbers fell slightly but are still respectable, with 76.43% of flights arriving on time and 21.8% of flights encountering a delay.
This airline is also one of the frontrunners for low instances of denied boarding but doesn’t fare as well for diverted flights or baggage handling. In fact, for mishandled baggage, United is the third-worst on our list.
Overall, United Airlines are reliable for getting you to your destination on time (most of the time), and they tend not to overbook flights, which usually results in passengers being denied boarding.
American Airlines takes the fourth spot on our list but actually scores the worst overall for baggage mishandled in both 2022 and 2023. A potential reason for this is that American Airlines offered the most flights, which is a lot to manage. But surprisingly, they did not handle the most bags - that honor goes to Southwest Airlines.
As the largest airline for passenger volume in the US, it’s nice to know that American redeems itself and has a very good track record, with an average of 77.64% of flights arriving on time.
As we mentioned, Southwest Airlines handled the most bags of any carrier we looked at. You might think that this would drop them to the lower end of the list for this category, but that’s not the case. They are better with your bags than most of our top US airlines for reliability, including Delta, American, and United.
In 2022, Southwest’s on-time percentage put them in 5th place - matching their overall position - but the good news is that this seems to be on an upward trend. In 2023, Southwest improved dramatically and was the second-best airline for both on-time and delayed percentages.
Alaska Airlines is a great option for anyone looking for reliable flights. Their average, based on the data from both years for on-time flights, is 78.39%. For delayed flights, it’s 19.56%. These numbers are better than Alaska Airlines’ overall spot of #6, but it’s the baggage and frequency of denied boarding that drags the carrier down slightly.
Just because an airline is closer to the bottom of our list doesn’t mean it doesn’t do some things well. That’s the case with Allegiant Air. Although they are among the worst for disruptions like flight delays and diverted flights, in 2023, Allegiant Air had the second-lowest percentage of canceled flights. Additionally, this carrier took the number 1 spot in both years for the lowest occurrences of mishandled bags.
It gets harder (although not impossible) to find positive things to say pertaining to reliability as we move further down the list. Spirit Airlines has good rankings for diverted flights (second and third-best), and in 2023, they got the #4 spot for mishandled bags. In 2022, though, their mishandled bags percentage of 0.61% put them third from the bottom.
Spirit’s reliability was much better in 2022 than in 2023. Their on-time numbers of 76.22% and delayed flight average of 21.31% earned the budget carrier the #5 spot overall for that year.
First, let’s start with the bad news: JetBlue was actually the second-worst airline in the US for delayed flights and, therefore, overall on-time percentage as well in 2022. The airline improved drastically in 2023 and climbed steadily to the middle of the list for this key factor.
JetBlue’s instances of mishandled bags are generally average, but JetBlue punches well above its weight with the third-lowest percentage for canceled flights. So, if you’re booked on a JetBlue flight, chances are very good that you’ll get to your destination - maybe just a little late.
Unfortunately, with any list like this, someone has to be in the bottom spot. Based on our AirAdvisor Reliability Score, it’s Frontier Airlines that ranks the worst overall in the US. Luckily for this budget-friendly airline, it’s not all bad news. Frontier Airlines is #3 in the US for the lowest percentage of mishandled bags.
The good news mostly ends there, with Frontier being either the worst overall or almost the worst in categories like canceled and delayed flights, contributing to it having the lowest on-time percentage in 2023 of 65.36%. Luckily, there are some great things to do at most airports while you wait for your flight.
Total Score 2022-2023
Total Score 2022-2023
To get the most comprehensive result, we knew that it was not only important to look at flights but the instances of mishandled baggage and denied boarding as well. Since each airline handles different amounts of baggage and passengers and offers varying numbers of flights, each of our categories was taken as a percentage.
All our data was taken directly from the US Department of Transportation, and we focused on the whole of 2022 and 2023 up to the beginning of June.
Here’s what went into each calculation:
Allegiant Air + Frontier Airlines
Southwest Airlines + Frontier Airlines
Allegiant Air + Hawaiian Airlines
As you can see, even if an airline ranks on the lower end overall, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t have some good qualities related to reliability. And if you’re curious about how these same airlines are rated for other categories, like comfort, price, customer reviews, and family travel, check out our post on the Top 10 Airlines in the US - Overall Best Rating for 2023.
Allegiant is the best at handling your precious baggage, and Hawaiian Airlines has the overall lowest percentage of diverted flights. In 2023, Southwest Airlines fell just short of the top spot for on-time percentage.
Now you’ll know exactly what to expect the next time you board a flight using one of these US airlines, and if you run into trouble, AirAdvisor can help you claim compensation for delayed flights or even get a refund if your flight is canceled. Just know that these types of disruptions are most likely to occur with Frontier Airlines.
The most reliable airlines in 2022 and 2023 in the US were Delta Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, and United Airlines. Our AirAdvisor Reliability Score is based on delayed, canceled, and diverted flights, as well as instances of denied boarding and mishandled baggage.
Delta Airlines is the best airline to choose for overall reliability. Based on our AirAdvisor Reliability Score, this carrier tops the list in this category for both 2022 and 2023.
The data involved in the AirAdvisor Reliability Score is comprehensive and includes over 5 million flights for more than 800 million passengers. We reviewed on-time, delayed, canceled, and diverted flights to get each US airline’s percentage of total flights in each category. We also used the occurrences of mishandled baggage and denied boarding as a percentage of total bags or flights. The result is an overall score that takes into account every factor related to reliability.
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