The Gist: There’s a clear preferred airline amongst US adults, with the remainder divided into two camps, based on ticket prices.  

The past twelve months have seen a deluge of viral content around customers and air travel, with almost every airline experiencing some kind of backlash from customers after an incident. Twitter hashtags vow to #BoycottDelta and the like, but with these controversies cropping up daily, and summer break just around the corner, do flyers have a favored airline? And if so, what does that say about the future of flight favorability?

We polled people on with whom they intended to fly, including these airlines below:

  • Delta
  • Southwest
  • American
  • United
  • JetBlue
  • Spirit
  • Allegiant
  • Frontier
  • Alaska

So who are travelers most likely to fly with in the next six months? None of the above. 49% of US adults say they don’t plan to travel by air for the rest of the year.

This isn’t earth-shattering. Based on our historical data, people who don’t fly very often, or don’t fly at all, are the majority group.

However, among people who are planning to fly in the next six months, Southwest is the most common response.

Southwest is known for its competitive pricing, as well as friendly customer service. However, even Southwest has seen its fair share of controversies in the last year. Are likely Southwest flyers loyal to the brand, or seeking savings?

Overall, it’s more about the Southwest brand than price and schedule, but not by much. That being said, Southwest prides itself on being a more budget-friendly airline, so it’s no surprise many travelers choose it for price and schedule.

What else can we discern from this preference?

People who plan to fly Southwest in the next six months have traveled recently.

Southwest’s brand focuses on savings and value, making it the choice for many. The message makes the airline the best of both worlds–savings and a reliable brand name. As we’ve seen in the past few years, choosing a specific airline has become an essential aspect for many travelers.

Over time, the specific airline has become more important to most. It looks like, based on our overall question, that specific airline is important, to a point.

Aside from Southwest taking top honors, Delta, United and American share similar sentiment. Spirit, Allegiant, and Frontier, all recently expanded budget airlines, rank the lowest.

Could it be that specific airline, one you can trust is only true up until a point, then budget kicks in?

It’s clear very few intend to fly what has been deemed to be the budget airlines, but the trusted names all have about the same intent to fly, even though each of them has faced at least one scandal or another in the past year.

The only outlier is Alaska, which, while consistently well regarded, doesn’t boast the largest network.  

So for now, it looks like the onboard controversies of many major airlines haven’t affected intent to fly on them. People trust the name brand airlines above the budget ones. However, the lower end budget airlines don’t seem to be trusted by most travelers. For US adults, being loyal to a specific airline still flies.