By Haddon Libby

Unless you fly privately, air travel in the United States rivals a deep root cleaning at the dentist’s office in terms of fun.  The typical traveler has to maneuver the gauntlet of check-in, security and an absurd number of people who appear to have never travelled before only to cram their bodies into undersized seats with no leg room and an air system that recirculates air insuring future illness for the majority of travelers.

Skytrax ranked the airlines of the world based on the impressions of more than 19 million travelers from over 100 countries traveling on 280 airlines using forty-one different considerations/parameters.  It should be of no surprise that U.S. based airlines did not crack the top twenty.

The top-ranked airline was Dubai’s Emirates airline with the most comfortable seats and best in-flight entertainment that includes a wide selection of videos and live sporting events.  Qatar Airways came in second followed by Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, All Nippon, Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways, Turkish Airlines, Taiwan’s EVA Air, Australia’s Qantas and Germany’s Lufthansa.

Looking only at U.S. airlines, Virgin Atlantic was the top rated airline.  Founded by British billionaire, Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Atlantic was just purchased by Alaska Air for $2 billion.  Jet Blue ranked as the second best followed by Delta, Hawaiian and Alaska.

The lowest rates U.S. airline was Spirit due to their low on-time performance and customer complaint levels.  American Airlines’ Envoy Air was the next to worst followed by Frontier, American and ExpressJet.

President Trump has railed against the “dreadful” and “pathetic” condition of most American airports. The Airports Council estimates that the United States needs to invest more than $75 billion over the next three years alone just to keep up with the growth in passengers and cargo. These expenditures do nothing to address ancient air traffic control system which is in dire need of upgrade.

Like the airlines, Skytrax puts out the Passenger’s Choice Awards each year for top 100 airports in the United States.  Atop the list was the destination spot, the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International airport.  While you and I may not think much about that area, the airport is within 800 miles of 80% of all Americans making it an ideal distribution center for business.  Additionally, Cincinnati was once upon a time referred to by many at the “Paris of America” due to its ambitious architecture.   Globally, this airport ranks as the 26th best in the world.

Second is the Denver International Airport followed by San Francisco, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Seattle and New York City’s John F. Kennedy Airport.

J.D. Powers also did a survey of passenger satisfaction with large airports and found Portland, Oregon was the favorite airport of travelers due to its cleanliness and dining and retail options that give the traveler a real sense of the Northwest.  Second was Tampa followed by Las Vegas, Orlando, Miami, San Diego and Salt Lake City. 

The lowest rated airport was New York’s LaGuardia Airport followed by their Jersey relative in Newark.  Third was Philadelphia followed by Chicago’s O’Hare, Boston and Los Angeles.

Amongst mid-sized airports, Indianapolis got top ratings as it is clean, spacious and new.  Second is Buffalo followed by Fort Myers, Jacksonville and the previously mentioned Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport.  Ranked sixth is the Ontario International Airport located approximately 100 miles to our west.

For comparison, the best airport in the world is widely considered to be in Singapore’s Changi airport.  Some of what makes this airport so special is that there are two free 24 hour movie theatres, a rooftop swimming pool, three spas and numerous gardens, including a butterfly garden. 

Haddon Libby is an Investment Advisor and Managing Partner of Winslow Drake Investment Management and can be reached at 760.449.6349 or HLibby@WinslowDrake.com.

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