If you are planning your next vacation travel or fed up with your current airline carrier, the Wall Street Journal's Middle Seat scorecard of best and worst airlines for 2013, announced January 8, might help you determine which is the best airline to use for future flights. (The cheapest airfare was excluded from this equation, but read on.) Out of the nine airlines rated by Flightstats, Inc., Seattle-based Alaska Airlines and Delta tied for best airline, according to writer Scott McCartney, although overall "last year was the worst for airline reliability in the last five years."
Over 8 million trips recorded by Flightstats revealed performance in on-time arrivals, baggage handling, complaints, travel delays, involuntary bumps, and flight cancellations. While Southwest, an airline made popular with cheapest airfares, is the only carrier left standing with a no charge policy for two checked bags, it mishandled more luggage than Delta and United Airlines combined. But do the math, Southwest may have handled more bags than Delta and United combined as well.
McCartney points out that Alaska Airlines may face the challenge of occasional harsh conditions, it "has the benefit of few flights on the East Coast of the U.S., where weather and airport congestion can be punishing." While Delta's hub is Atlanta (ATL), 'the busiest airport in the world,' it maintains an industry record for punctuality.
United and American Airlines, in the throes of merger-itis, and struggling to make improvements, remain at the bottom of the scoreboard, with more ticketed-passenger involuntary bumping and flight cancellations. Again, 'cheapest airfare was not a part of the equation.' However, when comparing ticket prices this week, I found that United had the cheapest airfare by far, and offered a round trip ticket to Liberia, Costa Rica (LIR) (nr Tamarindo) from Boston (BOS) with same 8-9 hour duration and only one stop in Houston at half the price of Delta. The old saying "you get what you pay for" remains to be proven. But we still have choices.
Sources: WSJ.com, Flightstats, Inc., Apple TV, WSJ News Hub, Getty Images