By Haddon Libby

The long Memorial Day weekend marks the start of summer for most.  Over the next few months, many of us will be flying off to vacation destinations both domestic and abroad.

Skytrax Air Travel ranks all airlines on a five star scale using dozens of factors that span from website simplicity and general operations to the experiences in various seating classes.

Eight airlines topped their list with five stars. Seven of these airlines are based in Asia: Nippon Airways of Japan, Asiana of South Korean, Cathay Pacific of Hong Kong, Garuda Indonesia, Hainan of China, Malaysian Airlines and Singapore Airlines.  The only non-Asian airline with five stars is Qatar Airlines.

The best airlines for arriving on-time were airBaltic, Hawaiian, Austrian, Iberia and Norwegian Air Shuttle.

There is only one airline with one star: Air Koryo of North Korea.  Spirit Airlines is the only US carrier to receive two stars.  Some other poorly rated airlines include: Air Italy, Bahamasair, China United, Ryanair, Cubana Air, any Iranian airline, Ukraine Air and Rossiya of Russia.

Here in the United States, our top rated airlines with four stars are JetBlue and Virgin America.  Alaska Airlines, Allegiant, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, Southwest, United and WestJet all came in with three stars.

Taking a more detailed look at the eight largest airlines in the United States (Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, United and Virgin America), Alaska and Delta had the best on-time arrival levels while United and Southwest were the worst in 2014.  Alaska had the fewest delays of more than 45 minutes while United and American had the most.  Looking at two-hour delays on the tarmac, Southwest had the fewest while American and United had the most.

Virgin America had the fewest mishandled bags while Southwest and United had the most.  Of the 88 million bags that Southwest touched last year, they mishandled 4.2 bags for every 1,000 touched or 370,000 in total.  United, which is the largest US airline was even worse.

Virgin America and JetBlue bumped the fewest passengers while United and Frontier bumped the most.

In 2014, 2.7% of all flights were canceled, a sharp increase from 1.9% in 2013. Virgin America, Frontier and Alaska had the fewest cancelled flight while United and American had the most.  United blames most of their problems on their Chicago hub and antiquated systems that management says are being upgraded this year.  Alaska had the fewest complaints while Frontier and United had the most.

Given all of the above, it should be no surprise that Alaska, Virgin America and Delta had the best overall rankings amongst major carriers.

Expanding our review to the top fifteen airlines, the poorest service amongst all domestic airlines was American’s regional airline, American Eagle (soon-to-be renamed Envoy). Nearly 30% of their flights were late with 6 in 1,000 bags mishandled.  Skywest and ExpressJet, which both handle smaller regional flights for the large airlines, ranked second and third.

Of the major airlines, United held onto its spot as the worst airline in America while Frontier and American rounded out the bottom three.  A special mention goes to discount airline AirTran (being acquired by Southwest) as 20% of their flights landed late.

When traveling to Europe, your best choices are Air France, Austrian, British Airlines, KLM, Lufthansa, Swiss Air and Virgin.  For the Middle East, Emirates and Qatar are your best bets.  Qantas and Virgin are best for Australia while Air New Zealand is a good choice for that country.

When booking flights, consider airport performance.  The top airports in the United States for on-time arrivals are Salt Lake, Seattle-Tacoma, Detroit, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Miami with LAX landing surprisingly high at #9.

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