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Newcomer tops magazine's U.S. airline survey

By Katia Hetter, CNN
updated 3:45 PM EDT, Wed May 22, 2013
Virgin America gets top marks for its seating and in-flight entertainment.
Virgin America gets top marks for its seating and in-flight entertainment.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Consumer Reports readers give high marks to Virgin America
  • Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways also did well in the magazine's airline rankings
  • Fee-driven Spirit Airlines didn't rate well with readers

(CNN) -- Virgin America topped the latest airline satisfaction rankings from Consumer Reports, the first time the 6-year-old airline has appeared on the list.

The airline was lauded for its seating, in-flight entertainment and baggage handling, even though it charges $25 for the first and second checked bags.

"While other airlines on the list like Southwest and JetBlue have done a very good job of satisfying fliers, Virgin America is a cut above in the eyes of our readers," said Amanda Walker, a Consumer Reports senior editor, in a statement.

Although Virgin America has been around since 2007, this is the first time the magazine survey received enough reader responses to include the carrier in the ratings. Virgin America scored an 89 on Consumer Reports' 100-point scale.

U.S. airline scores

Virgin America: 89
Southwest Airlines: 85
JetBlue Airways: 85
Hawaiian Airlines: 82
Alaska Airlines: 81
Frontier Airlines: 78
Delta Air Lines: 71
US Airways: 66
American Airlines: 66
United Airlines: 63
Spirit Airlines: 50

Airlines are scored on a 100-point scale

Source: Consumer Reports

Spirit Airlines ranked at the bottom of the list for its check-in, cabin service and seating. It also received 50 out of 100, one of the lowest scores for any company the consumer organization has ever rated, Consumer Reports reported.

Airlines collect $6 billion in baggage fees

After top-scorer Virgin America, Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways, which both scored an 85, rated highly for their check-in ease, cabin-crew service and baggage handling.

Southwest allows two free checked bags, and JetBlue allows one. JetBlue outshone Southwest in the categories of in-flight entertainment and seating comfort.

JetBlue and Southwest came in first and second place, respectively, in a recent J.D. Power & Associates survey of airline passenger satisfaction. Virgin America was not mentioned in that ranking.

Consumer Reports bases its airline ratings on a survey of 16,663 subscribers conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. Survey respondents were asked to rate their airlines' check-in process, cabin service, cabin cleanliness, seating, in-flight entertainment and baggage handling.

And the most satisfying airline is ...

The full report is available to subscribers online at ConsumerReports.org and in the July issue of Consumer Reports magazine. An online preview is available to non-subscribers.

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