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Consumer Reports' members weigh in on the best and worst airlines

Consumer Reports best and worst airlines

It’s not your imagination. Some airplanes now come with seats closer together, smaller bathrooms, and less space for carry-on luggage. So it’s no surprise that flying is less comfortable and more aggravating.

With the rise of the low-cost carriers, there’s been increased competition among airlines to get airfares down to the lowest possible price. They hope travelers will then decide to upgrade their tickets to more expensive fares offering more perks. Airlines offer enticements such as early boarding, extra legroom, and a checked bag, but all for an additional price.

So how do you score a more comfortable, hassle-free flight without extra fees? Consumer Reports' money editors say choose a top-rated airline.

In its latest survey of more than 52,000 CR members - reporting on nearly 100,000 economy class domestic flights - the airlines that received the best overall scores were Southwest, Alaska, JetBlue, and Hawaiian. All four scored high marks for cabin cleanliness, keeping passengers informed of flight status, and good service from airline staff.

The bottom two were Frontier and Spirit. They received low marks for ease of check-in, keeping passengers informed of flight status and pricing transparency.

And how do you get the best price for your flight? Consumer Reports money editors suggests searching multiple times over multiple days and shopping on both airline websites and third-party sites such as Kayak and Orbitz.

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