North America also provides the highest-ranked carrier overall. Allegiant's gain of 4.2 points was enough to move it above other perennial strong performers.
Allegiant considers itself more of a travel company than an airline, and it has a business model like no other carrier in its region. It relies more heavily than its peers on ancillary revenue, from holiday packages and inflight services. It buys used rather than new aircraft, and operates older types—mainly MD-80s. Allegiant's network is predominantly aimed at connecting small markets to holiday destinations, with relatively low frequency.
Other carriers also target ancillary revenue, but they have not succeeded to the degree Allegiant has. Neidl says that while airlines can replicate some elements of what Allegiant is doing, the business model itself would not work for anyone else—especially the larger airlines. Allegiant is the ultimate example of a small airline finding a niche that works and exploiting it, Hamlin says.
Southwest has typically been the highest-ranked of the U.S. major carriers, but it has slipped again and it was almost overtaken by US Airways. The legacy network carriers generally fared well, with all seeing a score increase apart from United.
Neidl says United's recent performance has been relatively disappointing. However, the advisers agree that the airline has the strongest assets and network, so it has the potential to be the best of the U.S. carriers.
In Canada, WestJet continues to rise, and is second in the mid-sized category of carriers and in the Top Five overall. Air Canada, however, is much farther back, and the advisers say it is being pressured on all sides—by WestJet domestically, and foreign carriers in international markets.
Latin American airlines overall did not fare well in the TPA rankings. All five of the carriers from this region included in the study saw their scores fall, mostly by large margins. Despite this, Copa was still the top-ranked airline in the mid-sized group and fourth overall.
The main problem is that Brazil's economic woes are dragging down many carriers. Overcapacity is also a factor, as rapid airline growth outstrips demand.
This region is “down but not out,” Neidl says. “This will still be a growth region and it is going to be very important for airlines.” Copa remains strong, and Latam will be a powerful player when it has moved beyond the integration process.