Hectic airports, frequent flight delays and cancellations, understaffing, and irritable passengers on overbooked flights have largely defined air travel since pandemic travel restrictions were lifted. For some, that meant writing off air travel as a necessary evil. For others, it was a good reason to lean deeper into their airline of choice. United tops the list for transparency, number of routes, the flight experience both on and off the plane, and, importantly, ambitious sustainability plans that lead both domestic and international airlines.


There’s no getting around the fact that air travel is one of the most polluting ways to get from place to place. United is taking real steps to help change that. In February 2023, it became the first airline in the United States to show a flight’s estimated carbon footprint at the point of booking. The airline invests nearly $200 million in companies researching sustainable aviation fuel through the United Airlines Ventures Sustainable Flight Fund. On the ground, 34 percent of United’s ground service equipment at airports are electric.

In recent years, airlines have largely relied on carbon offsets for the bulk of their sustainability efforts. These efforts aren’t nothing, but they still result in the same emissions being produced. United goes above industry standards to push commercial flights into new levels of sustainability, and it was the first airline in the world to announce a public climate goal without relying on traditional carbon offsets.

Getting you there

Photo: United Airlines
Photo: United Airlines

The destinations that any individual airline serves varies from year to year and sometimes even season to season. Even with those fluctuations, United ranks among the top airlines globally in terms of the number of destinations reached, both inside the United States and around the world. Additional flights to key European cities — as well as new routes to Malaga, Dubai, and Stockholm add to that range — and new routes to Australia and New Zealand make United the largest airline serving that area.

United’s capacity to move people is only growing: the airline plans to add 230 new planes by the end of 2024. With an intuitive app with all the information you need, planes with larger overhead bins, and more inflight entertainment (including Bluetooth connectivity to watch movies on the seatback screen with your headphones of choice), flying is also more enjoyable, even in economy.

Service beyond the plane

Photo: United Airlines
Photo: United Airlines
Photo: United Airlines

United opened eye-catching lounges in Denver and Chicago in 2023, with more lounges coming to United hubs in 2024. Internationally, business- and first-class flyers have access to luxurious United Polaris lounges.

The perks don’t end there. United’s MileagePlus is one of the most generous airline reward programs, making it easy for frequent travelers to earn status — even those at the lowest earned level board in group two.

How we made our pick

Airlines were nominated by the well-traveled Matador Network team, from video producers and social media editors to writers and managers. Those nominations were then awarded points on a 10-point scale on 10 equally weighted categories:

  • Sustainability efforts
  • Number of destinations
  • Experience in economy
  • Experience in business and first class
  • Affordability
  • Rewards program
  • Add-ons like lounges and cards
  • Clarity on cancellations and charges
  • Handling of consumer complaints
  • Reliability