Photograph by Daniel Acker — Bloomberg/Getty Images
By Benjamin Snyder
August 8, 2014

Not every American airline is created equal.

A new study shows that United ranks as the overall worst performing airline in the U.S. for the third year in a row, but Delta (DAL) is top of the list when it comes to such metrics as fewest cancelled flights, most on-time arrivals and the least number of mishandled bags.

The report, compiled by Airfarewatchdog, a website that provides data about the airline industry for consumers, gathered its figures from the Department of Transportation’s May 2014 study on the industry.

“As far as we’re concerned, Delta is this year’s unsung hero,” Airfarewatchdog said in a post announcing the results. “For the past two years, Delta has been stuck on the wrong side of the rankings, but this year the airline moved from sixth up to the top spot!”

The number two spot, meanwhile, belongs to Virgin America, which maintained its runner-up position from 2013.

Delta shot up the rankings from last year’s study on the heels of a strong performance in a number of categories. For example, the airline saw only 0.11% of its flights cancelled to finish as the best in the U.S. in that category, compared with JetBlue’s (JBLU) 2.42% cancellations. Delta also scored a particularly strong showing in the on-time arrival department, with 84.41% of its flights landing when expected (the second best after Alaska’s 89.67%).

In the case of fewest mishandled bags, Virgin America was best in show, with just 1.04 mishandled out of 1,000 passengers. The worst performer? AirTran, which had 4.91 mishandled, on average.

For amount of denied boardings per one million passengers, according to statistics compiled by the Department of Transportation, JetBlue had just 3.58 denied to claim the number-one position, whereas United was last with 245.61 denied entry on the plane.

The final category, customer satisfaction scores, featured JetBlue as the highest performer with a score of 79, according to the 2014 American Customer Satisfaction Index scores. United (UAL) finished number eight in the category with a mark of 60.

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