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That is a difficult question, but to answer it, Hopper.com conducted a comprehensive study of the following airlines: Spirit, Frontier, AirTran, JetBlue, American, Virgin, US Airways, United, Delta, and Alaska Airlines.
Southwest was not included in the study because, according to Hopper.com, the airline does not share data with Global Distribution Systems.
Hopper.com examined ticket prices, airline fees, customer satisfaction surveys, and seat size and pitch to identify the best and worst airlines for different types of travelers. Seat pitch refers to the distance between the back end of a seat and the front end of the seat behind it.
According to the study, Spirit is on average the least expensive U.S. airline (from those analyzed) when no additional fees are incurred for services such as checked luggage, snacks, etc.
On average, JetBlue is the least expensive U.S. airline when fees for a carry-on, two checked bags, and seat selection are included. What’s more, it has the highest customer satisfaction per ticket price and the largest seat area and pitch on the top five domestic routes.
AirTran has the best seat area and pitch per dollar spent on a flight (on the top five domestic routes).
Ranking the airlines by total ticket price when a carry-on, two checked bags and seat selection fees are included, JetBlue becomes the least expensive major domestic airline followed by Virgin America and AirTran. Spirit Airlines slips to sixth place, while Delta and Alaska trail the survey field.
The actual total ticket prices will change, the study notes, based on what route travelers take and also what specific amenities they choose, which affects the fees charged.
After analyzing two different reports related to customer satisfaction for different U.S. airlines, Hopper.com officials found that JetBlue consistently has the highest customer satisfaction for each dollar spent on a ticket. Virgin and Frontier airlines also perform well, while United consistently scores near the bottom.
Regarding “cost per seat inch” and “pitch” on the top five domestic routes, the study revealed that JetBlue has the largest pitch and seat area, and Spirit has the smallest. On a dollar/pitch basis, Alaska is the worst and AirTran the best. On a dollar/area basis, US Airways is the worst and AirTran the best.
Spirit Airlines “Extra Room” option enables fliers an additional eight inches for $12-$199 dollars. If travelers can get this option for under $100, they’ll get the largest seat available at 36 inches pitch for a below average price (not adding in any other Spirit Fees).
The flight price data presented in this analysis comes from Hopper’s combined feed of Global Distribution Service (GDS) data sources which includes about 10 million queries and 1 billion trips per day. Demand is represented as the number of queries not actual ticket purchases, and is calibrated across all GDS sources for each market. Good deal prices are represented by the 10th percentile prices. For example if the 10th percentile price is $800 dollars it means that only 10% of trips are priced at or below this price.
In its study, Hopper.com also used consumer reports and J.D. Power surveys of customer satisfaction.
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