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Spirit Airlines

How Spirit Flew Past American and United in a New Ranking

How Spirit Flew Past American and United in a New Ranking
Scott Dylan

Spirit Airlines is having its day. The budget carrier just pulled ahead of two legacy carriers in a new ranking.

The Wall Street Journal’s Middle Seat column released a new statistical report that ranks the nation’s airlines based on a number of factors. The big shocker this time around is that Spirit Airlines has managed to climb to fourth place in the overall ranking. Spirit beats both United Airlines and American Airlines. However, Delta, Alaska and Southwest had no trouble beating Spirit.

Middle Seat’s annual list of the best airlines is based on operational performance and evaluates factors like on-time arrivals, complaint rates and mishandled baggage when compiling their list. Delta managed to take first place in this year’s ranking. The story was the same last year.

Why was Spirit Airlines able to rise so high this year?

This underdog airline has been working hard to compete with legacy carriers. Spirit’s rise can mostly be attributed to the carrier’s stellar overall on-time performance in 2018. In addition, Spirit did wonderfully when it came to cancelled flights last year.

Spirit actually earns second place just in the category of cancelled flights. It was able to beat both United and American by some pretty big margins in that category. Spirit was actually the top-ranked airline for cancelled flights during the month of October. Baggage also earned Spirit tons of points in 2018. Spirit’s rate of mishandled bags was consistently low throughout 2018.

There’s no doubt that Spirit has been putting in the effort to deliver better service and on-time performance for its customers. However, the airline might not be working as hard as you think. There is one more factor that contributed to Spirit’s high ranking for 2018.

The reality is that Spirit’s competitors just haven’t been doing that great of a job of getting flights to depart when they’re supposed to depart. Legacy carriers are running into some big problems when it comes to delays and cancelled flights at many of the nation’s top airports. That means that Spirit looks better by default. A carrier like American suffers from its large footprint when it comes to on-time performance. American had a rough time in 2018 due to a mix of integration issues, operational issues and weather-related disruptions. Let’s see if 2019 ends up being a little better for the nation’s big carriers.

View Comments (4)


  1. CaliforniaSteve

    February 6, 2019 at 5:30 am

    No. American had a hard time in 2018 because it’s run by people who don’t care about the customer base they serve, other than having said customer base soaked for every last penny, and operated by employees that can’t stand management and, thus, take their frustrations out on that same traveling customer base.

  2. Spanish


    February 7, 2019 at 5:29 am

    I find myself buying Spirit’s Big Front Seat more and more often out of CMH. Less F flights on AA. AA’s new F seats are less comfortable than Spirit’s Big Front Seat. Including luggage, Spirit’s 1/3 to 1/2 the price and nonstop service. We’ll see how 2019 goes, I’m sure I won’t make Plat Pro this time around…

  3. Lasvegasgamer

    February 7, 2019 at 10:35 am


    Spirit is still a garbage experience in the sky, they’re just getting you in/out of the airports on time. Admittedly better than their oversold & unrealistic previous approach feat. 6-8 hour delays. AA/UA should take notice as that’s part of the product, but those ranting about customer service when they’re actually mad about devaluation doesn’t help matters either.

  4. aresef

    February 10, 2019 at 7:49 pm

    Neat. Still never flying them again.

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