Personal Finance

Delta Named Best Airline in the U.S.

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Delta Air Lines received the top honor of Best U.S. Airline of 2014 from deal-hunting website Airfarewatchdog. For the third year, the site compiled Department of Transportation data and consumer satisfaction reports to determine rankings of eight major U.S. airlines, in areas including frequency of canceled flights, lost baggage and on-time arrivals.

How America’s Airlines Stack Up

The rankings don’t directly relate to pricing (though loyalty programs and in-flight services are considered in consumer satisfaction), but ticket prices often influence a traveler’s airline choice when making flight plans. If you’re looking for a pleasant flight experience, you may want to consider Airfarewatchdog’s assessment of U.S. airlines when choosing your ticket. Here’s how their rankings ended up this year:

8. United Airlines
7. American Airlines/US Airways
6. Southwest Airlines/AirTran Airways
5. Frontier Airlines
4. JetBlue
3. Alaska Airlines
2. Virgin America
1. Delta Air Lines

What Makes Air Travelers Happy

In last year’s rankings, Delta was sixth of 10 (American, US Airways, Southwest and AirTran were ranked separately), with Frontier at No. 1 and Virgin at No. 2. Delta improved most in customer service, which is based on the American Customer Satisfaction Index. According to its website, ACSI determines index scores by considering the airline’s flight schedule options, check-in, reservations, on-time arrival, baggage handling, loyalty programs, flight crew courtesy, in-flight services, seat comfort and website.

Delta also had the lowest percentage of canceled flights of the airlines scored, with 0.11% of flights canceled, according to a May 2014 Department of Transportation cancellations report. On the other end of the spectrum, JetBlue canceled 2.42% of its flights.

Delta took second in on-time arrivals (84.41%), after Alaska Airlines, with 89.67% on time. Only 72.68% of Southwest’s flights arrived on time. Out of every 1,000 passengers, Delta received 1.93 reports of mishandled baggage, which was fourth-best after JetBlue, Frontier and Virgin America (Southwest received 3.89 reports per thousand passengers).

Delta also took fourth in involuntary denied boardings. Passengers are involuntarily denied boarding if they arrive at the airport with a confirmed reservation, proper travel documents and enough time to complete security and boarding check-ins, yet they are still not allowed to board the plane, even though they pose no safety or health risks. In other words, overbooking was less of an issue for Delta passengers than it was for United passengers, where more than 261 per million passengers were involuntarily denied boarding. Delta had about 74 per million, while JetBlue had the fewest, at 3.58 per million.

Make Air Travel Affordable & Enjoyable

When searching for plane tickets, you would ideally find tickets within your budget and with an airline that suits your needs. Remember to read the fine print before purchasing a ticket, so you’re not surprised by baggage fees or costly in-flight services when you board. Some tickets have lower sticker prices but charge extra fees for conveniences, and if you’re not expecting those charges, you may spend a lot more than you planned.

It may not seem like a big deal when you’re charging extra expenses to your credit card, but you probably don’t want to go into debt because of air travel. The way you use your credit card has a huge impact on your credit score, so make sure you carefully monitor your budget, especially during times you spend more than usual, like when you’re on vacation. To see how your credit card use affects your credit standing, you can check two of your scores for free on Credit.com.

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