The best domestic airlines in 2024 (a frequent flyer’s opinion)

The best domestic airlines in 2024 (a frequent flyer’s opinion)

I’ve been writing about the airline industry for well over 10 years now. I’ve flown well over 1,500,000 miles (most of it within the US). I’ve eaten more than my fair share of questionable airline food. I think my lower back is permanently tweaked from spending so many hours in uncomfortable economy class seats.

Therefore, I would like to think that I have earned the credentials necessary to put together a list of the best domestic airlines. The United States version at least. I mean, if Skytrax can make **** up, why can’t I?

SANspotter’s best domestic airlines for 2024 (ranked from my favorite to least favorite)

In past years, I considered route networks and fleet sizes of each airline as a significant ranking factor. Y’all were kind enough to let me know how irrelevant that is. Thank you! This time, it’s 100% merit based:

1. Delta

It’s really hard for me to say anything bad about Delta. My primary reason for ranking them numero uno is that they offer the most consistent onboard experience across their entire fleet. Stepping onto a Boeing 757-200 is going to look (and feel) exactly the same as an Airbus A321.

They serve really good food in first class. There are videos screens at every seat on every aircraft (except their Boeing 717-200). And while I cannot deny that the Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International Airport (their largest hub) appears to be a total motherf****r upon first glance, I find it to be one of the most efficient airports in the entire world.

Delta air Lines seats, food, and in-flight entertainment
To date, I have flown Delta exactly 218 times (mostly voluntarily). It’s the airline I’ve cursed the least, and depend on the most. This is an easy number one pick!

Examples of some of my more recent Delta Air Lines experiences:

2. JetBlue

I’ve never had a bad flight on JetBlue. As a matter of fact, other than Hawaiian Airlines, it’s the airline I look forward to flying the most within the US. A majority of their flights are economy class only – although they do offer options (seats with extra legroom and a decent food for purchase menu) to dull the pain a little. 

Their Mint business class product is phenomenal. It’s so good that I didn’t even bat an eye giving it the number one spot in my best domestic first class list

JetBlue seats, food, and in-flight entertainment
Welcome aboard JetBlue! The airline that would surely be at the number one spot of my ‘best blue mood lighting” list if I wasn’t feeling too lazy to create it.

Examples of some of my more recent JetBlue experiences:

3. Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines onboard service is excellent, and I really appreciate how much effort they put into making everything (food, ambience, uniforms, etc) feel Hawaiian. There’s genuine Hawaiian hospitality in every facet of the services they offer, and it’s hard not to enjoy flying with them. A lot.

Yes, the food they serve in economy class is disgusting. That said, they are the only airline in the US serving food in economy class on domestic flights these days. That counts for something.

For the ultimate Hawaiian Airlines experience, fly in first class aboard one of their Airbus A330-200s. The fully lie flat seats are unique, and the island-inspired food is pretty good. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Hawaiian airlines seats, food, and in-flight entertainment
I don’t care how much it costs. There is no better way to get to or from the Hawaiian Islands than flying Hawaiian Airlines. Unless you’re a billionaire. In that case, f**k Hawaiian Airlines.

Examples of some of my more recent Hawaiian Airlines experiences:

4. Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines is so close to being the best airline in the US – mostly due to their consistently great onboard service. I find the Alaska Airlines vibe to be more laid-back than the others, and it’s refreshing to say the least. Nothing about the experience feels stodgy and corporate. They feel like a small startup airline trying their damnedest to be great.

Their airplanes are clean, and overall, they run a very reliable operation. The reason for placing them in the middle of this list is because there are no video screens built into the seats (not even in first class). The food in first class is limited as well. Booo!

Alaska airlines seats, food, and in-flight entertainment
It takes balls of steel for an Alaskan airline to try and conquer the lower 48 states (and Hawaii). Thankfully, the kahunas on the CEO are up to the task.

Examples of some of my more recent Alaska Airlines experiences:

5. Southwest

I fully admit that Southwest Airlines isn’t for me. However, since they are so good at what they do (and they do it so consistently), they are fully deserving of being placed in the number 5 spot on this list.

They have an impressive route network, decent fares, and (mostly) dead nuts reliable service. The planes are squeaky clean, the crews are happy, and it’s generally a very good experience. And just like how it is with Delta, the onboard experience is fairly consistent from one aircraft to the next.

The only reason why I don’t fly with them very often is because of the non-assigned seating. The lack of a first class product is a turn-off as well.

Southwest airlines seats, food, and in-flight entertainment
Southwest Airlines is actually really good –and that irritates me a little (because I hate the lack of assigned seating). Why they gotta be so awesome all the time?

Examples of some of my more recent Southwest Airlines experiences:

6. United

United Airlines is very similar to Delta, but slightly more s****y.  They have clean planes, good onboard service, and I think that they have some of the best hubs in the network.

My problem with United is how “stale” they feel. Their cabin crews always seem tired and burnt out, the food in first class isn’t quite as good as what Delta is serving, and they have been really dragging their feet upgrading the interiors of older aircraft.

United airlines seats, food, and in-flight entertainment
I promise that I wasn’t trying to make United look bad in this collage of pics. I honestly couldn’t find a collection of pictures that made them look good!

Examples of some of my more recent United Airlines experiences:

7. American Airlines

It’s getting to the point where I consider American Airlines to be my ‘last choice’ option. Not because I consider them to be a terrible airline or anything. My issue is that they have somehow figured out a way to even be more soulless than United.

I know. Being soulless does not automatically make an airline bad. I find American Airlines to be dependable, and as comfortable as any other major US airline. Not only that, the food in first class is easily better than the slop that United is serving these days.

But my God. Could they be any more stale and corporate? Has anyone ever seen an American Airlines employee having fun? I sure haven’t.

American airlines seats, food, and in-flight entertainment
Have you ever worked with someone who only did enough not to get fired? That’s the current state of American Airlines IMHO. Other than the fairly decent first class food, the rest is hardly worthy of throwing a fat year-end bonus at.

Examples of some of my more recent American Airlines experiences:

8. Spirit

I’m not afraid to admit that I actually like Spirit Airlines. If you’re not checking bags, and if you can resist purchasing any extras (such as snacks or a carry-on bag allowance), it’s actually a very cheap way to fly.

Their planes are surprisingly clean considering how hard they work them. Flights are generally on time. I’ve never had a horrible experience. Even better is the fact that they offer a fairly decent (and low cost) premium seating option. I’m a big fan!

Spirit airlines seats
And you thought this was going to be at the very bottom of the list! Don’t tell anyone, but Spirit Airlines is actually kind of good.

Examples of some of my more recent Spirit Airlines experiences:

9. Breeze Airways

Breeze Airways is another airline that I feel has the potential of being one of the best airlines in the US. They offer really great fares to secondary cities, very clean airplanes, friendly cabin crews, and even a fairly decent (and somewhat competitive) business class product. Seriously – the Breeze Airways A220-300 Ascent seats are some of the best in the US.

The only reason why I’ve placed them so far down on this list is due to an inconsistent product. They’re still a fairly new airline, and have been slow in rolling out features such as in-flight entertainment and meals. That stuff is coming though. And I can’t wait.

Breeze airways seats and food
Breeze Airways is kind of like that kid we all knew in high school (the one who would have been great if he could’ve just learned to focus). Time will tell if Breeze is going to move up or down from here…

Examples of some of my more recent Breeze Airways experiences:

10. Avelo Airlines

What can I say about Avelo that I haven’t already? It’s an interesting little airline serving mostly secondary cities in both the western and eastern portions of United States. 

The reason why it is unlikely that you’ll ever see Avelo at the top of this list is because of how basic their onboard service is. The seats are thin, very hard, and there’s very little when it comes to drinks and snacks. They offer really cheap fares though, which is what makes them so interesting.

Avelo airlines seats and food
Flying Avelo airlines is a lot like driving a 1986 Yugo (the base model). If there’s a more basic scheduled airline service in the United States, I’ve yet to find it. 

Read more about my Avelo Airlines experience:

11. Frontier

I’m not as surprised as you are that Frontier Airlines isn’t sitting at the very bottom of this list. Many consider them to be the worst domestic airline, but personally, I’ve never had an issue with them other than slightly inconvenient delays.

Frontier Airlines is good IMHO. They offer cheap fares, new airplanes, and a fairly decent route network. They have potential.

Frontier airlines seats
Hey now. Frontier Airlines doesn’t suck that bad. Would I bet my life on them? Hell no. Are they sufficient for a flight to Denver? Sure!

Examples of some of my more recent Frontier Airlines experiences:

12. Sun Country Airlines

Sun Country Airlines is an ultra low-cost carrier now, meaning that there’s hardly any onboard service to speak of (you have to pay extra for everything). Most of their aircraft are old, tired, and not very clean. They are very safe and reliable though. Cheap too!

Sun country airlines seats, food, and in-flight entertainment
Welcome aboard Sun Country Airlines! Minnesota’s other airline.

Examples of some of my more recent Sun Country Airlines experiences:

13. Allegiant Air

Does being at the bottom of my list of the ‘best’ domestic airlines mean being the worst? Not really. I actually like Allegiant Air (just not as much as the others).

Although I can praise Allegiant for offering extremely low fares, they tend to attract a crowd which doesn’t have much experience with air travel. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – all I’m saying is that a little patience (and maybe a shot of whiskey) is required when flying this ultra low cost carrier.

The good news is that they’re not cutting corners on aircraft maintenance anymore (it used to be really bad). That tells me that they’re at least trying, and who knows? Maybe they’ll be positioned a little higher up in the next version of the annual SANspotter best domestic airlines list…

Allegiant air seats and food
I mean, it’s not like you’ll have to sit on a cinderblock or anything, but the seats on Allegiant Air are pretty basic.

Examples of some of my more recent Allegiant Air experiences:

Comments (17)

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    August 27, 2022
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