Monday newsletters always feature top 10 travel lists to inspire.
Today (June 17, 2019): Top 10 best airlines in North America.
Which airline in North America is the most trustworthy? The answer to this question is likely to resonate among travelers planning their travels to/from or within North America if they have a choice of airlines. Every week, it seems a company, magazine or media organization claims it has the definitive list of the best and worst airlines using its own, sometimes questionable methodology. One of the more trusted surveys is published by SkyTrax, with Air Canada topping this list. Looking at North America, here’s a list of my 10 favorite airlines based on my own observations (I’ve flown them all on multiple occasions) and my own quality measures (e.g. onboard product, customer service, safety, route network and fleet).
What’s your favorite airline in North America? Take my poll below or leave a comment.
*** Read: top 10 best airlines for longhaul Business Class ***
Aerovías de México, S.A. de C.V. operating as Aeroméxico, is the flag carrier airline of Mexico. It operates scheduled services to more than 90 destinations in the Americas, Caribbean, Europe and Asia. In 2018, the airline uplifted 21.88 million passengers, up from 20.67 million a year earlier. Since Delta Air Lines acquired a 49 percent stake in the airline, Aeromexico’s punctuality and onboard service has greatly improved. Aeroméxico is one of the four founding members of the SkyTeam airline alliance, along with Air France, Delta Air Lines and Korean Air.
- Website: Aeroméxico
- Hubs: Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey
- Number of aircraft: 71
- Average age of fleet: 7.4 years
Founded in 1996 as a low-cost airline, WestJet is currently the second-largest Canadian air carrier, behind Air Canada. In 2018, the airline carried 25 million passengers to more than 100 destinations in Canada, the United States, Europe, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Over the past decades, the carrier has established a reputation for flair, humor and community engagement. WestJet is currently going through a transition phase to becoming a full premium carrier carrier as it introduced an amazing Business Class hard product on its Boeing 787 routes to London, Dublin and Paris.
- Website: WestJet
- Hubs: Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver
- Number of aircraft: 128
- Average age of fleet: 10 years
8. AMERICAN AIRLINES
Based in Fort Worth, American Airlines merged with US Airways in 2013, creating the world’s largest airline when measured by fleet size, revenue, passenger traffic, and number of destinations served. The carrier operates an extensive international and domestic network with almost 6,700 flights per day to nearly 350 destinations in more than 50 countries. In 2018, the carrier flew more than 200 million passengers across the globe with a fleet of almost 1000 aircraft; that’s more than 500,000 passengers daily. While I did like the carrier in the past, it has gone downhill since the fusion with US Airways, with deteriorating service and punctuality. American Airlines is a founding member of Oneworld alliance, the third largest airline alliance in the world.
- Website: American Airlines
- Hubs: Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Washington
- Number of aircraft: 963
- Average age of fleet: 10.8 years
- Review: read here my review of American Airlines’ Business Class in a B777-300ER
- Review: read here my review of American Airlines’ First Class in a B777-300ER
7. SOUTHWEST AIRLINES
Established in 1967, Southwest Airlines is now the USA’s largest domestic air carrier and the world’s largest low coast carrier, operating more than 4,000 weekday departures among a network of 100 destinations in the United States and 10 additional countries. Similar to Ryanair, Southwest operates an exclusive fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft (all of which are WiFi equipped), making it the largest operator of the Boeing 737 worldwide, with over 700 in service, each averaging six flights per day. In 2018, Southwest carried the most domestic passengers of any United States airline. The carrier is currently planning service expansion to Hawaii. Southwest was named one of the world’s most admired companies by Fortune magazine.
- Website: Southwest Airlines
- Hubs: Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dalles, Denver, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, Orlando, Phoenix
- Number of aircraft: 753
- Average age of fleet: 11.2
Headquartered in the Long Island City neighborhood of the New York City borough of Queens, the low-cost carrier Jetblue is the 6th largest airline in the USA. The company was founded in 1999 by Brazilian-American entrepreneur David Neeleman and based on the success formula of Southwest Airlines, although Jetblue tried to distinguish itself by offering a superior inflight entertainment system, more leg room in couch, free WiFi, and complimentary drinks & snacks. Jetblue carries more than 38 million customers a year to 101 cities in the USA, Caribbean, and Latin America. Although Jetblue is still a low cost carrier, they do offer a sublime Business Class produc (designated Mint), available coast to coast and on select Caribbean routes on configured Airbus A321.
5. UNITED AIRLINES
United Airlines, commonly referred to as United, was established by the amalgamation of several airlines in the late 1920s. In 2018, the airline flew more than 150 million passengers to 355 airports across the globe. United has the most comprehensive global route network of all North American carriers, including gateways to Asia and Australia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. While the carrier used to have a bad reputation (especially since the merger with Continental in 2011), they got rid of that with the introduction of new aircraft, an impressive new Business Class product (Polaris), fabulous lounges, better customer service, and overall, a much better on-time performance. United is a founding member of Star Alliance, the world’s largest airline alliance.
- Website: United Airlines
- Hubs: Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, Washington
- Number of aircraft: 772
- Average age of fleet: 15.1
- Review: read here my review of United Airlines’ Business Class in a B787 Dreamliner
- Review: read here my review of United Airlines’ domestic First Class in a B777-200ER
4. AIR CANADA
Founded in 1937, Air Canada is the flag carrier and the largest airline of Canada by fleet size and passengers carried. In 2018, the airline flew nearly 51 million customers directly to 63 airports in Canada, 56 in the USA, and 100 in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and South America. Last year, Air Canada unveiled its new Business Class concept called ‘Signature Class’, with lie-flat seats across its wide-body fleet, celebrity-chef David Hawksworth inspired menus, upgraded lounges, and BMW chauffeur service at Toronto airport. Air Canada is the only international network carrier in North America to receive a Four-Star ranking. Air Canada is a founding member of Star Alliance.
- Website: Air Canada
- Hubs: Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver
- Number of aircraft: 186
- Average age of fleet: 13.1
- Review: read here my review of Air Canada’s Business Class in a B787
3. DELTA AIR LINES
Headquartered in Atlanta, Delta Air Lines – typically referred as Delta – is the world’s second largest airline, the sixth-oldest airline by foundation date, the oldest airline still operating in the USA, and a founding member of the SkyTeam alliance. Delta ranks high on my list of my favorite North American carriers because of its excellent on-time performance (which ranks among the best in the USA). In addition, Delta invests in seat-back entertainment across its entire fleet (where both American and United are leaning away from that strategy) and also launched an excellent new Business Class product (called Delta One Suite) with a sliding door at each suite. Where Delta may improve is in the quality of its loyalty program and the age of its fleet (which is currently the oldest in North America).
- Website: Delta Air Lines
- Hubs: Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St Paul, New York, Salt Lake City, Seattle
- Number of aircraft: 898
- Average age of fleet: 15.8
- Review: read here my review of Delta’s Business Class in a B767
- Review: read here my review of Delta’s Business Class in an A350 (Delta One Suite)
2. ALASKA AIRLINES
Alaska – 5th largest airline of the USA – operates a large domestic route network, primarily focused on connecting from the state of Alaska to over one hundred destinations in the contiguous USA, Hawaii, Canada, Costa Rica, and Mexico. In total, there are 44 million passengers that fly with the airline annually. Alaska Airlines is not a member of any of the three major airline alliances. However, it has codeshare agreements with 17 airlines, including member airlines of Oneworld, SkyTeam, Star Alliance, and unaffiliated airlines such as Emirates. The Seattle, Washington-based carrier has earned top marks over the years for its familial ambiance, friendly and relaxed service, on-time performance, excellent loyalty program, great amenities, and a guarantee that you get your luggage within 20 minutes of your plane arriving at the gate.
- Website: Alaska Airlines
- Hubs: Anchorage, Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle
- Number of aircraft: 237
- Average age of fleet: 8.4
1. HAWAIIAN AIRLINES
Founded in 1929, Hawaiian Airlines is the tenth-largest commercial airline in the US and a bit of a niche player as far as its position in the market goes. Even though it’s among the most prominent airline brands in North America, it’s dedicated to connecting the Hawaiian islands with the rest of the world, being Asia, American Samoa, Australia, French Polynesia, Hawaii, New Zealand, and the United States mainland. Hawaiian is the oldest US carrier that has never had a fatal accident or a hull loss throughout its history, and frequently tops the on-time carrier list in the USA (helped no doubt by the islands’ excellent climate), as well as the fewest cancellations, oversales, and baggage handling issues.
- Website: Hawaiian Airlines
- Hubs: Honolulu, Kahului
- Number of aircraft: 55
- Average age of fleet: 8.9
- Review: read here my review of Hawaiian Airlines’ domestic First Class in an A330
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