Beware If You’re Flying One of These Airlines Thanksgiving Weekend

Don't expect much elbow room if you fly US Airways this Thanksgiving. Source: US Airways.

Thanksgiving is typically the busiest travel weekend of the year, and 2013 is shaping up as no exception.

According to trade group Airlines for America, travelers are expected to fly some 25 million miles, or roughly 31,000 per day over the 12-day period that's considered part of the Thanksgiving travel season. Inclement weather may have already caused problems for many. How big a price you pay in terms of delays and cancellations may depend on which of the six major U.S. airlines you're flying.

After combining satisfaction scores tracked by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, or ACSI, with each carrier's year-to-date load factor, I think those flying Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV  ) are most likely to get home without incident. US Airways (NYSE: LCC  ) travelers might not be so lucky. Here's a closer look at the entire field.

Airline
YTD Load Factor
(Rank)
Customer Satisfaction Score (Rank)
Combined Score

American

82.8% (2)

65 (4)

6

Delta

84% (4)

68 (3)

7

JetBlue

84.3% (5)

83 (1)

6

Southwest

79.9% (1)

81 (2)

3

United Continental

83.8% (3)

62 (6)

9

US Airways

85.2% (6)

64 (5)

11

Sources: ASCI data; company press releases.

The theory? Carriers that tend to please customers throughout the year and that leave a little capacity for overcrowding and last-minute sales are more likely to survive the nation's busiest travel weekend with their reputations intact. US Airways, with an overall score of 11 out of a possible 12, has no room for error. United Continental (NYSE: UAL  ) , with 9 out of 12, isn't doing much better.

Why aren't Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Travel also ranked? The ACSI hasn't begun assigning them scores, though neither earns raves from employees. A dispiriting 29% of Spirit's workers say they'd recommend the company as of this writing. Allegiant's employees are almost as disloyal. Only 41% say they'd recommend the carrier. Flying either airline this weekend is likely to be a sardine-like experience, with loads ranging around 86% last month.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. Which carrier did you use to get home for the Thanksgiving weekend? How was the experience? Tell us your story in the comments box below.

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 29, 2013, at 11:38 PM, 5eagles wrote:

    Author..."I think those flying Southwest Airlines are most likely to get home without incident". That's because they fly mostly point to point, not hub and spoke. You're comparing apples to oranges.

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 8:56 AM, boeingdriver213 wrote:

    I have been flying Southwest for years. Rarely do I have a problem of any kind on Southwest Airlines. No airlines does it perfectly, but few try harder than Southwest.

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 11:54 AM, whyaduck1128 wrote:

    Since I started traveling again almost two years ago, I've flown five of those six airlines (JetBlue being the exception). I've had few problems with any of them, perhaps because of where I've gone (mainly to the Southwest) and where I haven't (upper Midwest and Northeast). That could play a role in the overall scores.

  • Report this Comment On December 01, 2013, at 1:11 AM, PetetheGreek wrote:

    My major esperience has been with United which has cancelled more than 50% of the flights I've booked with them, and have cancelled codeshare flights with other airlines (Lufthansa mainly) forcingh other airlines to pay me for errors comitted by United by united.

    But now I know that more than 50% of united domestic or united flights will be cancelled within 24 hours of departure, so I do not fly united.

    My experience is that Southwest and JetBlue are generally the best two in the US

  • Report this Comment On December 01, 2013, at 5:21 PM, hagar2935 wrote:

    The best way to "fly" is on AMTRAK. No TSA, Comfortable seats, No Overbooking, great scenery, and Delicious meals in the dining car where you get served politely and greeted warmly by fellow travelers.

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