Summer's in full swing, and if you're like the rest of us you probably think weekends are best spent somewhere fun. Yet, those trips to Las Vegas and New York can be pricey if not planned ahead of time. Sure, showing up at the airport and hoping to fly off to somewhere warm on stand-by (an old trick that doesn’t work anymore) sounds like a fun and adventurous thing to do. Soon, though, you’re caught up in the hype and, when the ticketing agent tells you that there aren’t any cheap flights available and that the next flight to a sunny destination is one to Orlando at $1,000 a ticket, you’ll wish you’d remembered these best value airlines.

Southwest Airlines 

Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV) is famous within the airline community for pioneering the “10-Minute Turn” – wherein a low-cost carrier lands its plane and has it cleaned and ready to board in 10 minutes. By getting planes off the ground faster, airlines can have more flights per day and increase worker productivity, which result in more money for the airline and cheaper tickets for customers.

Southwest has one of the highest customer satisfaction ratings in America and is popular for its singing employees. All Southwest flights offer WifF, live TV, Beats audio and video on demand. Another way the airline saves money is through its open-seating plan. While the first-come, first-serve nature of the policy isn’t for everyone, it helps keep ticket prices down, and that makes customers happy. (See also, Southwest Airlines Is Becoming Disruptive Again.)

Alaska Airlines 

Alaska Airlines (ALK), a company oddly based out of Seattle, was one of the first airlines in America. After getting its start in 1932, the company weathered economic hardships to emerge today as the top airline in customer satisfaction eight years running. The airline is not low-cost but its impeccable service coupled with a great loyalty program make flying with Alaska Airlines a good value for travelers. On board, flights feature WiFi access and Seattle's own Starbucks coffee. True to its Pacific Northwest roots, the airline is committed to sustainability — its pilots use iPads instead of environmentally unfriendly paper manuals and certain airplanes are fuelled with biofuel.


JetBlue Corp. (JBLU), a relatively new airline, has been in the news lately because of fees. Despite its new checked bagged fee, JetBlue is still the best option for Americans looking for a good value. With a goal of “bringing humanity back to air travel,” the airline is quick to offer up perks. For example, the airline is the only low-cost carrier to offer private seats in first (Mint) class.

Can’t afford a suite seat? JetBlue’s economy class is still an excellent value – the airline provides free and unlimited snacks, live TV, free basic WiFi (along with paid premium WiFi), ApplePay and the most legroom in America. Throw in the convenience of flying to and from smaller airports and you’ll understand why JetBlue is so popular among frequent fliers.

Virgin America 

The internet loves Virgin America Inc. (VA). Richard Branson only launched the newest airline on this list in 2007, and it recently had its IPO. With a first class cabin, Virgin's service mirrors JetBlue's but ultimately falls short when you compare the companies’ offerings.

Virgin America customers can use WiFi, watch free TV, charge electronics and order food via a touch screen media device. Low prices aside, customers can also benefit from a fun crew staffed with people who don’t act like they’re simply there to punch the clock – an ambiance that can really make a vacation.

The Bottom Line

In a world where airlines are constantly raising ticket prices, stuffing more and more people into the same plane and charging for every little thing they can, these four airlines have taken a different route. With low cost, excellent service and a commitment to the customer, these top value airlines understand that when you spend hard-earned money on an airline ticket you aren’t just renting a chair, you’re purchasing an experience.

Want to learn how to invest?

Get a free 10 week email series that will teach you how to start investing.

Delivered twice a week, straight to your inbox.