Best and Worst Airlines

Travelers are far from happy with the coach service they’re getting, according to a Consumer Reports survey of 20,000 of its subscribers.

Of the 13 airlines evaluated, most get the lowest score possible in a number of areas. Not having enough leg room and seat width are common complaints. Most airlines also get low ratings for space for carry-ons, quality of food, and in-flight entertainment.

The budget carrier Spirit Airlines comes in last, with an overall satisfaction rating that’s significantly worse than all other airlines. The big three U.S. airlines, Delta, American, and United, don’t do that well, either. They fall in the middle or near the bottom of the ratings. They are among those with the lowest possible score on leg room, seat comfort, food, and in-flight entertainment.

There are some bright spots, though. Coach travelers are very satisfied with some of the smaller airlines that do well for service from staff and have an easy check-in process. JetBlue lands on top, followed closely by Southwest Airlines and Virgin America. What distinguishes JetBlue? Slightly better leg room and seat width. All of the other carriers get low ratings on those measures.

Having no hidden fees is also important. Southwest stands out for being the most transparent about its fees. And that partly offsets poor scores for seating, food, and entertainment.

Consumer Reports also surveyed first-class passengers. And there, Virgin America does well, with top scores across the board.

Regional carriers like Alaska and Hawaiian are also worth checking out if you’re traveling their routes. They both do well in first class and coach when it comes to staff service and not having hidden fees.

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