Best Airline

Virgin America

Leave it to Richard Branson to inject style into the business of flying with the country’s newest major airline. The Virgin America lounge at the San Francisco terminal feels like the lobby of a W Hotel, and the planes have mood lighting and hip music playing as you board. With above-average on-time arrivals and departures, the airline also features onboard Wi-Fi, seat-back screens passengers can use to order meals and cocktails, and sleek entertainment systems with first-run movies, TV shows, and music videos available at a finger swipe. (The airline will debut a system with social-media connectivity later this year.) But what really surprises are the reports of stellar customer service. It’s almost as if the flight attendants are happy to work there.

Because of its two-free-checked-bags policy, democratic seating, decent fares, on-time arrivals and departures, good service at check-in and in the air, clean cabins, reliable baggage handling, and helpful website, almost 15,000 Consumer Reports readers voted Southwest tops. Enough said.

From Outside Magazine, Apr 2012 Get the Latest Issue

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