Delta Air Lines was just named the top airline in the country based on the findings of the 2019 Airline Quality Ranking (AQR). That's bad news for Alaska Airlines. Alaska Airlines had earned the top spot for several consecutive years prior to 2019. However, the carrier now stands at fourth place.

What caused Alaska Airlines to fall so much based on AQR's findings? It is very likely that Alaska's recent merger with Virgin America played a role in the decline. Virgin America was in seventh place in 2018. However, it was absent this year due to its merger with Alaska.

How does AQR generate its ratings? AQR uses factors like customer complaints, on-time performance, mishandled or misplaced baggage and denied boarding to determine which airlines perform the best. Here's how the list looks for 2019, in sequence:

  • Delta Air Lines
  • JetBlue
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • Spirit Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Frontier Airlines

There's a good chance this could be the first time you're hearing about AQR. However, the organization has actually been compiling lists of top airlines for 29 years. AQR's goal is to make it easier for customers to hold airlines accountable. In addition, the organization strives to provide the public with a baseline for quality when choosing which airlines to fly with.

Scott Dylan is a contributing writer at GET.com and has been to (almost) every country in North, Central and South America with nothing more than a backpack, a laptop and the desire to explore. He speaks Spanish fluently and has logged enough time in planes, trains, rideshares, buses, taxis and rickshaws to know how to rack up rewards and points to get anywhere his heart desires for pennies on the dollar. Email: scott.dylan@get.com.