Consumer Reports survey: Southwest, Alaska, JetBlue, Hawaiian named top airlines

Frontier and Spirit receive low marks

SAN ANTONIO – As the most people in 15 years are expected to travel for Thanksgiving, Consumer Reports is out with its survey naming the top- and bottom-rated airlines.

In its latest survey of more than 52,000 Consumer Reports members reporting on nearly 100,000 economy-class domestic flights, the airlines that received the best overall scores were Southwest, Alaska, JetBlue and Hawaiian. All four scored high marks in cabin cleanliness, keeping passengers informed of flight status and good service from airline staff.

The bottom two on the list were Frontier and Spirit, which received low marks for ease of check-in, keeping passengers informed of flight status and pricing transparency.

Choosing a top-rated airline is one way to make increasingly cramped air travel more pleasant, according to Consumer Reports. 

The seats in some planes are now closer together, bathrooms are tinier and overhead compartments are smaller. But it's not just the tight quarters making air travel increasingly aggravating.

"With the rise of the low-cost carriers, there's been increased competition to get airfares at the lowest possible price, and they hope that travelers will then decide to upgrade their tickets to more expensive fares offering more perks," said Consumer Reports money editor Octavio Blanco.

Airlines offer enticements such as early boarding, extra legroom and a checked bag  -- but for an additional price.

To score the best price for your flight, Consumer Reports suggests searching multiple times over different days and shop both at airline websites and third-party sites such as Kayak and Orbitz. 

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