Every regular traveler has a favorite airline, right? The one that most often offers the best airfares, has the best in-flight entertainment options or just consistently runs on time.
According to a survey performed by airfarewatchdog.com, an air-travel web site started by consumer activist George Hobica, the preferred domestic carrier for travelers from the United States in 2015 is Virgin America.
Among 3,200 respondents, 22 percent called the American branch of Sir Richard Branson’s airline their top choice. The brand’s cool factor and heart played into the results, with truly high-speed Wi-Fi in-flight, fun in-flight safety videos and Branson donating half the profits from wine sold on flight to charity all reasons why respondents chose the carrier as their favorite. (The survey was performed before Virgin America’s announcement of free Wi-Fi for in-flight Netflix streaming, so it might be an even higher percentage now.)
Smaller and low-cost airlines took the next several spot, with Alaska Airlines and Jet Blue each taking 14 percent of the votes. Southwest and Hawaiian airlines rounded out the top five, with each being favored by 11 percent of the respondents.
Low-cost carriers receive frequent praise from consumers for their perks and service, including free checked bags, organized boarding procedures, lack of fees for changing flight and reward programs that are easy to understand and use. (Southwest actually came out well ahead of the competition in Airfarewatchdog’s earlier survey regarding the industry’s best loyalty programs.)
The “big 3” U.S. carriers did not fare so well. Delta was tops among them, but came in only in eighth place, with 5 percent. United and American airlines were ninth and 10th, with each getting preferential nods from just 2 percent of respondents.
Oft-maligned Spirit airlines fared slightly better than United and American, with 3 percent of respondents claiming them as their favorite.