Discounters reign. The folks at Forbes.com have put together a ranking of the nation's 10 major airlines, and Southwest rose to the top. Continental was No. 2, JetBlue No. 3, and AirTran 4.
The top dogs were followed by Alaska, Northwest, American, and Delta. And bringing up the rear were United and US Airways.
Now you're probably wondering which factors Forbes.com considered. They looked at five year's worth of federal data on on-time arrivals, cancellations, complaints, and mishandled baggage, with heaviest weight given to delays and cancellations. They then also took into account consumer satisfaction by looking at J.D. Power rankings from 2005-2008 as well as the airlines' financial stability as measured by their asset-to-liability ratios.
I like this ranking because it confirms my own prejudices and experience. However, on-time arrival figures for August, which were just released today, suggest that this ranking has limits in predicting anyone's actual travel experience.
Of the Big 10, the airlines that did best were Northwest, Southwest, and US Airways, followed by Alaska, AirTran, Delta, Continental, United, and American, And the worst? JetBlue. Go figure.