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What's behind our airline travel Ratings?

The Consumer Reports National Research Center comprises highly trained social scientists, including 9 Ph.D.s, using state-of-the-art techniques to survey more than 1 million consumers each year about products, services, health care and consumer issues.
We look for:
  • Reader score
    Overall satisfaction
  • Leg room
    Leg room (in your seat).
  • Seat width & comfort
    Seat width/Seat comfort
  • Room for carry-on bags
    Room for carry-on bags.
  • Cabin & restroom cleanliness
    Cabin cleanliness/Restroom cleanliness.
  • Check-in ease
    Ease of check-in
  • Service from airline staff
    Service from airline staff (friendly and courteous).
  • Food/Refreshments
    Food/Refreshments (variety and quality).
  • In-flight entertainment
    Quality of in-flight entertainment options
  • No hidden fees
    No hidden fees.


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Regardless of which airline you choose to fly, there's no reason to pay more than you have to. And as you may have noticed if you've bought a ticket in the past year, airfares are up. Ticket prices rose about 20 percent between March 2010 and March 2011, based on the 300 domestic routes tracked by Harrell Associates, an airfare-consulting company in New York. If you're looking for information about airlines, Consumer Reports is your best resource. Consumer Reports’ airline reviews will give you honest advice that you can trust. Use our airline buying guide to discover which features are most important to consider. We also provide unbiased ratings and airline reviews to help you choose the best airline for your needs.

Airline travel buying guide

High fares. Hidden fees. Long security lines. Shrinking seats. Crowded cabins. There's not much to enjoy about airline travel these days, especially if you're sitting in coach, according to readers in our airline survey, conducted this summer by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

More than 14,000 coach passengers and some 6,000 first-class passengers who took a domestic nonstop flight told us their opinions about their airline's seat width and comfort, legroom, room for carry-on bags, cabin and restroom cleanliness, check-in ease, service from the airline staff, in-flight entertainment, and transparency about fees.

You'll have a more comfortable trip without springing for an upgrade if you fly with the airline at the top of our coach Ratings: JetBlue. It earned a higher score than any other airline for its coach cabin's seat comfort and legroom.

JetBlue, Southwest, and Virgin America received favorable Ratings for their check-in, their staff service, and upfront disclosure about their fees. Passengers dinged Southwest and Virgin America, however, for their cramped and uncomfortable seats. Yet apart from JetBlue, all coach services rate poorly in these areas.

When it comes to first-class travel, Virgin America, Hawaiian Airlines, and Alaska Airlines earned an exceptional overall score. Virgin was the real stand out, however, with top marks across the board. Hawaiian and Alaska (with the exception of its average in-flight entertainment) also received high marks in the rated areas.

See our Travel & Vacation Guide for advice and tips on getting the best deals on airfare, hotels, and more.

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