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Airline travel

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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
  • Check-in ease
    Ease of check-in
  • Cabin-crew service
    Friendliness and responsiveness of cabin crew
  • Cabin cleanliness
    Cleanliness of cabin
  • Baggage handling
    How well airline handled baggage
  • Seating comfort
    Comfort of seats
  • In-flight entertainment
    Quality of in-flight entertainment options

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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

Airline travel buying guide

During the first successful airplane flight in 1903, Orville Wright had to lie on top of a wing, next to the motor, in the open air. He might feel right at home on many of today's airliners. Though pilots and passengers now get to ride inside the plane, comfort remains a sore point, according to a new survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

More than 16,000 readers told us about their experiences on 31,732 domestic round-trip flights in the previous 12 months. Seven of the 11 airlines they rated received below average scores for seating comfort.

Other quality-of-flight measures also got low marks from readers who flew on lower-rated airlines, including cabin-crew service, cleanliness, and in-flight entertainment. The proliferation of added fees further contributes to passengers' low opinion of today's flying experience.

But some carriers have done a better job than others, as evidenced by a wide difference in overall satisfaction scores. Virgin America, which makes its first appearance on our list in the top spot, received some of the highest scores we've seen in years. Spirit, which also makes its debut on our list, occupies the unenviable bottom spot, receiving one of the lowest overall scores for any company we've ever rated.

You'll increase the odds of a happy–or at least tolerable–flying experience by choosing one of the airlines that did well in our exclusive survey.

You'll increase the odds of a happy–or at least tolerable–flying experience by choosing one of the airlines that did well in our exclusive survey. See our Travel & Vacation Guide for advice and tips on getting the best deals on airfare, hotels, and more.

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