The Best and Worst U.S. Airlines of 2020, Adjusted for COVID-19

How the coronavirus pandemic has affected domestic carriers

Delta
In pandemic times, Delta was the top domestic airline in a new survey
Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images
By Kirk Miller / July 27, 2020 12:44 pm

It’s not a normal year for airline travel.

But if you’re gonna fly, one respected airline source thinks you should stick to Delta.

Travel site The Points Guy conducts an annual ranking of domestic airlines each year, but they admit that 2020 is a unique situation and requires different standards.

Instead of using the standard metrics we’ve used in the past, we’re instead focusing entirely on how each of the 10 largest carriers in the country have responded to the coronavirus pandemic. Be it adjusting elite status programs or implementing new cleaning procedures or issuing refunds, the airlines have had their hands full.

You can find TPG’s methodology here; it’s a five-part system that includes ticketing, cleaning, ground experience, in-flight experience and loyalty programs.

Their overall findings:

  • Delta, Alaska and JetBlue were the only three airlines to score in the 80s (out of 100)
  • If flexibility in travel plans is your gold standard, fly Southwest. The airline offers no change or cancellation fee on any ticket (even in non-Covid times), and you convert existing (or new) travel funds into Rapid Rewards points.
  • Delta scored a perfect 20/20 for cleaning, and their updated protocols also helped them finish nearly perfect for on-the-ground boarding experience.
  • JetBlue narrowly topped the in-flight experience — they’re not fully booking their flights, for example — while last-place Spirit is charging $3 per mask.
  • One place where Delta stumbled was in their loyalty programs; here, Alaska, American and JetBlue scored high points.

As far as what to avoid? Same as in non-pandemic times — low-cost airlines like Allegiant, Frontier and Spirit, which all got so-so scores for ticketing and cleaning and awful numbers (including a few zeros) in the other three categories.


Related: Here’s the Seating Protocol for Every U.S. Airline


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