Which Type Of Flier Are You — And Which Airline Best Fits Your Needs?

Customer dissatisfaction with the airline industry continues to sink. It currently ranks last among the 47 industries tracked by the American Customer Satisfaction Index. But that doesn’t meant you can’t at least try to find the commercial carrier that will least annoy you.

Over at SmartMoney.com, they went through available surveys and data to match up five types of fliers with the airlines that best suit each type. Just for fun, they also list the airline that they believe is the worst for each type of traveler.

1) Getting a cheap flight
Best: Frontier
“Frontier gets just 3.7% of its revenue from fees, or an average $4.05 per passenger. Ticket change fees are at most $50, while the big carriers charge as much as three times that. Charges for pets ($75) and unaccompanied minors ($50) are also significantly cheaper than other carriers.”

Worst: United Continental
“Passengers pay an average $34.32 in fees… Fees account for 14.7% of United Continental’s annual revenue. The carrier generally keeps fees on level with those of American, Delta and U.S. Airways, but collects more revenue per passenger. The next-highest, Delta, pulls in $22.75 per passenger.”

2) Arriving on time

Best: Hawaiian Airlines
“A whopping 92.5% of the carrier’s flights arrive on time, up from 92.1% in 2009, according to the Airline Quality Rating. Hawaiian also bumps very few passengers — just 0.04 per 10,000, slightly off from last year’s 0.03.” JetBlue has a better bump rate, but had the second-worst on-time rating.

Worst: Comair
“Last year, 73.1% of Delta regional carrier Comair’s flights arrived on time, the lowest of all airlines surveyed. It was last in 2009, too, with 69% of flights arriving on time.”

3) Checking a bag
Best: Southwest
“[Southwest is] the only U.S. carrier that still offers travelers the opportunity to check two bags for free, a savings of up to $60. But its 3.43 mishandled bag rating, unchanged from last year, falls in the middle of the pack and is just slightly better than the industry average.” AirTran had the lowest mishandled bag rate and lower checked bags rates than most other airlines.

Worst: American Eagle
“American Airlines’ regional carrier had the worst rate, mishandling 7.15 of every 1,000 bags, down from last year’s 7.78. Its fees are on par with the other major carriers at $25 for a first checked bag and $35 for a second, but American doesn’t offer the $2 to $3 discount per bag that its competitors do for paying in advance of arriving at the airport.”

4) Flying in comfort
Best: JetBlue
“JetBlue has the most generous economy seating space on domestic flights, with a seat pitch of at least 32″ (and often, 34″) on all its aircraft… Each passenger has a personal TV in the seatback in front of them and many flights have the option of WiFi for an additional charge.”

Worst: Spirit
“The carrier’s Airbus A320 seats are the smallest, with a seat pitch of just 28″…. Spirit’s seats on other planes are a more manageable 30″ to 31″, but then, the carrier also charges $8 to $20 to select a seat. Passengers don’t have seat-back monitors or shared cabin TVs, there’s no WiFi, and food and nonalcoholic beverages cost $2 to $5.”

5) Redeeming rewards
Best: Southwest
“With 99.3% of reward-booking requests available… It’s significantly ahead of the other U.S. carriers — runner-up JetBlue, in comparison, was able to fill 79.3% of requests. Sorensen attributes part of the top ranking to Southwest’s revised reward program.”

Worst: U.S. Airways
“Just 25.7% of reward-seat requests could be fulfilled on U.S. Airways… and that’s with a 15-point improvement over last year’s figures. Second-worst carrier Delta fulfilled 27.1% of requests, a 14.2-point increase from last year.”

Of course, depending on where you’re traveling to and from, these best options might not be available to you.

Which airlines have you found do the best to meet your particular needs?

The Best Airlines for 5 Types of Fliers [SmartMoney.com]