CNBC make it 2024-04-28 02:00:54

There’s a new No. 1 U.S. airline—it’s not Delta

There are plenty of factors to consider when booking long-range travel plans. One of the biggest: which airline will fly you to your destination.

While many airlines will take you where you want to go, the travel experience can vary widely when it comes to factors such as boarding processes, amenities and baggage allowances.

WalletHub recently released a ranking of the best airlines in the U.S. The site compared the nine biggest domestic airlines, plus one regional carrier, across 13 metrics in three major categories:

  1. Baggage and departures
  2. In-flight comfort and cost
  3. Safety

The airlines were scored on metrics including how many mishandled baggage reports they had, how often they canceled flights, the availability of complimentary refreshments and how often they had delays. Each airline then received a score out of a maximum 100 points.

After two years in the top spot, Delta Air Lines slipped to fourth place, behind new No. 1 Alaska Airlines, as well as SkyWest and Spirit.

Despite losing its crown, Delta was still found to be the most reliable airline because of its low rate of cancellations, delays, mishandled luggage and denied boardings. The legacy carrier also ranked as one of the most comfortable airlines in terms of in-flight experience.

Alaska Airlines is WalletHub’s No. 1 U.S. airline

Alaska Airlines received the most points in WalletHub’s analysis, with a score of 68.07 out of a possible 100 points.

Although Delta held the top spot in 2022 and 2023, Alaska previously ranked at No. 1 from 2017 to 2019 and again in 2021.

In WalletHub’s ranking, Alaska was also the third-most reliable and comfortable airline and the fourth-most affordable airline.

Alaska Airlines offers customers complimentary in-flight Starbucks, has hubs across the Northwest Coast, and is a member of the Oneworld alliance, a global airline alliance of 13 members, including American Airlines, Qatar Airlines and British Airways. This allows Alaska to offer its passengers special perks, such as rebooking a flight on another airline that’s part of the alliance when possible.

The airline was also ranked the best airline and best airline rewards program by NerdWallet earlier this year.

The top U.S. airlines ranked, according to WalletHub

  1. Alaska Airlines (68.07 points)
  2. SkyWest Airlines (65.96 points)
  3. Spirit Airlines (65.69 points)
  4. Delta Air Lines (61.56 points)
  5. United Airlines (51.96 points)
  6. JetBlue Airways(51.6 points)
  7. Hawaiian Airlines (48.3 points)
  8. American Airlines (46.52 points)
  9. Frontier Airlines (43.57 points)
  10. Southwest Airlines (36.03 points)

The second-best airline, according to WalletHub, is SkyWest Airlines, with a score of 65.96.

SkyWest is a regional airline that partners with major airlines such as Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and American Airlines.

In 2023, it carried 38.6 million passengers to its 237 destinations throughout North America.

SkyWest ranked in the top three domestic airlines for on-time performance from February 2023 to January 2024, with 84% of its flights departing as scheduled, according to data from the Department of Transportation.

Ultra-low-cost Spirit Airlines ranked No. 3 in WalletHub’s report, with a score of 65.69.

Spirit also ranked as the best airline for budget flyers, beating out Frontier, a fellow low-cost airline. The Florida-based carrier’s flights cost about 5.23 cents per mile in 2024, while Frontier’s cost 6.03 cents per mile, according to WalletHub.

A major reason Spirit Airlines is able to keep its costs lower than other airlines is that it has an a la carte pricing model. This means your fare covers only your seat, and anything extra, such as bags and in-flight snacks, comes at a cost.

Spirit Airlines might not offer the most comfortable experience — its seats are known for their limited legroom and lack of in-flight entertainment — compared with some of the other airlines listed. However, if a traveler is looking to spend less money in the U.S., the Caribbean or Latin America, it might be a fit.

On the other end of the list, Southwest Airlines ranked last for the third year in a row with just 36.03 points. The Texas-based carrier fared poorly when scored on metrics including price, safety measures, mishandled baggage reports and denied boarding.

Despite ranking last, Southwest Airlines had the lowest percentage of canceled flights, WalletHub found, based on 2023 flight data from the Department of Transportation.

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Here is the average credit score at every age in the U.S.—see how yours stacks up

Although Americans’ average credit scores recently dropped for the first time in a decade, many appear to be maintaining a relatively healthy score.

The average credit score dipped by one point, from 718 to 717, according to FICO’s March 6 blog post. Your FICO and VantageScore credit score can fall anywhere between 300 and 850, and a 717 score is considered to be “very good,” according to the VantageScore model.

Here are VantageScore’s rankings and ranges:

  • Very Poor: 300 to 499
  • Poor: 500 to 600
  • Good: 601 to 660
  • Very Good: 661 to 780
  • Exceptional: 781 to 850

When you break down the average credit score by age, most Americans appear to have a good score as well.

Here’s the average credit score by generation as of March 2024, per VantageScore CreditGauge data shared with CNBC Make It:

  • Gen Z (18 to 27): 665
  • Millennials (28 to 43): 687
  • Gen X (44 to 59): 710
  • Baby boomers (60 to 78): 746
  • Silent generation (79 to 96): 750

Many factors are used to calculate your credit score, including your payment history, the amounts you owe, your credit mix and how often you’ve recently opened a new line of credit. It’s understandable that older generations tend to have higher scores since they’ve had a longer time to establish and maintain their credit.

However, Generation Z and millennials are more likely to move up to a higher credit tier at a faster rate than older generations, according to OpenLending and TransUnion’s “Financing the Future” report.

How to take your credit score to the next level

When it comes to boosting your credit score, expert advice is pretty straightforward: Do your best to pay down your debt.

“The best way to improve your credit score in both the long and short run is to pay down your loan balances,” Matt Schulz, chief credit analyst at LendingTree, tells CNBC Make It. “That can obviously be easier said than done, but it should always be the goal.”

Another way to help your score move up is to ask your lender to increase your credit limit, which helps improve your credit utilization ratio, Schulz says. Your credit utilization rate is the amount of your total available credit that you’re using.

For example, if you have one credit card with a $4,000 limit and you’re carrying a balance of $1,000, your credit utilization would be 25%. If your lender increases your limit to $6,000, it would lower your credit utilization to around 16%.

If your credit utilization rises above 30%, it can start to negatively impact your score, according to Experian.

However, if your request to increase your credit limit is granted, it’s important not to spend up to that new limit, “otherwise you’ll be digging your hole even deeper,” Schulz says.

Ultimately, maintaining a healthy credit score comes down to consistency.

“It is about paying your bills on time every single time, keeping your balances as low as possible and not applying for too much credit too often,” he says. “If you do these things consistently for years, your credit is going to be just fine.”

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Researcher who has interviewed 100+ people about loneliness: Here’s my best advice

Most people do their best to avoid feeling lonely. Researcher Sam Carr, however, has embraced it.

The 46-year-old lecturer at the University of Bath is the self-proclaimed “scholar of loneliness” and has been studying it for the past six years and interviewed over 100 people about the feeling. His most recent research, the Loneliness Project, involved speaking to 80 older people from different countries to get a better understanding of what loneliness means for them.

“I think it’s only recently that I’ve realized that loneliness is a big part of all human suffering. It’s sort of like the common denominator,” says Carr, who recently published a book called “All the Lonely People”.

Carr tells CNBC Make It that while many people view loneliness as “some sort of undesirable pathology that we need to cure and get rid of,” he sees it as anything but. “I actually see it as an inevitable part of life,” he says, adding that “to be alive is to be lonely.”

In other words, Carr believes that loneliness is a perfectly natural feeling that can’t, and shouldn’t, be avoided.

“That means that loneliness will come and go, quite often as it chooses, over the course of human life, quite apart from our efforts to run away from it, or deny that or pretend that that’s not true,” he says.

His best advice for when you feel lonely: Talk about it

If you’re experiencing loneliness, Carr recommends not ignoring it or trying to wish the feeling away. Over the course of his research, he found that the best recourse for dealing with loneliness is to acknowledge it and talk about your experience with others.

He compares loneliness to grief, an emotion that he says can only be ameliorated if you “move through it.” However uncomfortable it may feel, “it can’t be sped through more quickly.”

Loneliness will come and go, quite often as it chooses, over the course of human life.
Sam Carr
Lecturer at the University of Bath

Carr’s advice is in line with that of U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, who last year spoke about America’s “epidemic of loneliness and isolation,” calling it “an underappreciated public health crisis.”

“Our relationships are a source of healing and well-being hidden in plain sight,” he said at the time. ”[They] can help us live healthier, more fulfilled and more productive lives.”

Talking about loneliness may be “a critical driver for empathy,” Carr says, and a key way for people to be reminded that other people suffer at times in their lives too.

“There is the potential for connection in loneliness,” he says. “It provides the potential for us to have compassion for each other, for us to embrace each other’s vulnerability.”

Want to make extra money outside of your day job? Sign up for CNBC’s new online course How to Earn Passive Income Online to learn about common passive income streams, tips to get started and real-life success stories.

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34-year-old making $49,000 a month in passive income: My favorite $0 side hustles

I started my first side hustle on Amazon in 2017 for $0. At the time, I was working two jobs and freelancing, and I was excited about the potential to make some passive income by selling print on demand t-shirts with Amazon Merch on Demand.

At first it was just t-shirts, but now I also sell tank tops, long sleeve shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, phone cases, pillows and tote bags. Since the platform has expanded to international markets, I sell my products to customers the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Japan.

The Amazon side hustle ultimately allowed me to leave my day job in 2020.

What began as one experimental side hustle has grown into 10 income streams that now bring in $49,000 a month in passive income.

Here are some of my favorite $0 side hustles and my best advice for getting started in 2024.

DON’T MISS: The ultimate guide to earning passive income online

Amazon Merch on Demand

Start-up cost: $0

This platform has become my favorite passive income opportunity. It uses a print-on-demand business model, where products are printed and shipped after the sale takes place.

My responsibilities include creating graphic designs, and listing them for sale on the various products available in the Amazon Merch catalog. I find that simple, text-based designs can generate plenty of sales, so for me, design experience has not been required to be successful.

My favorite thing about this platform is how automated it is. After an order comes in, Amazon routes the order to one of their production facilities, where the product is picked, printed, and shipped to our customer. Each month I receive a payout for royalties generated on our sales.

Print on Demand

Start up cost: $0

Amazon Merch is not the only way to make money with print on demand. I’ve taken the designs I created for my Amazon Merch side hustle and placed them on other products and marketplaces as well. 

I’ve sold print-on-demand products on Etsy since 2018. The only cost associated with Etsy is a $0.20 fee to create a product listing, and if you use an invite link to begin selling on Etsy you can get 40 free listings. 

I use a company called Printful to fulfill the orders. Printful has a direct integration, which allows them to automatically fulfill orders and notify customers when they’re shipped out.

In addition to Etsy, you can consider cross-listing your print on demand products to Walmart, eBay and Redbubble. I use all three platforms. Redbubble and eBay have been around for quite some time, while the Walmart option became available last year.

Amazon Influencer Program

Start up cost: $0

My fiancé and I have both been a part of the Amazon Influencer Program since September of 2023. It allows you to make passive income by creating video reviews of Amazon products that you own.

Joining the program is free, and you can use your smartphone to start recording the videos. The uploaded videos are displayed on the Amazon product detail page for the product you review, as well as similar products. If someone watches your video before they buy the product, you’re typically paid a commission ranging between one and three percent.

I would start by reviewing all of the products you own that can be found on Amazon. As long as the item is available for sale on the platform, you can absolutely review it, regardless of where you originally bought it.

I have reviewed hundreds of products, and my fiancé has reviewed close to 1,000. I think this is a great potential passive income stream that is not super well known.


Start up cost: $0

YouTube is an ever popular side hustle that you can start today for $0, even with just a smartphone and an internet connection. I have found that when I create videos about my passions and hobbies, it often doesn’t feel like work. 

The requirements to monetize your YouTube channel with AdSense is 4,000 hours watched, total across all video uploads, and 1,000 subscribers. Once you’re approved, you can get paid monthly based on how many ads were watched by your viewers.

I have my own YouTube channel from which I earn $4,900 a month in passive income. My fiancé and I also recently started a channel together where we unbox Amazon return pallets, with hopes that we can re-sell the products at a profit. Not only is it a fun project to work on together, it’s on its way to paying us ad revenue, once the channel meets the monetization requirements.

There are a ton of exciting side hustle opportunities out there. While the learning curve may seem intimidating at first, my best advice is to approach it with a positive attitude and a long-term perspective. It can take some time to scale these income streams to the point where they can replace a full-time income, but in my experience, it can be done. 

Ryan Hogue is a former web developer and adjunct professor who quit both jobs to run his e-commerce business. His YouTube channel teaches people how to earn passive income using “Ryan’s Method.”

Hogue is also an instructor in CNBC’s new online course, How to Earn Passive Income Online. The course provides an overview of common passive income streams, tips to get started and real-life success stories.

Plus, sign up for CNBC Make It’s newsletter to get tips and tricks for success at work, with money and in life.

26-year-old’s side hustle brings in $38,500 a month and can be ‘passive all year long’

Francisco Rivera’s “original plan” after college graduation was to work in music and travel.

But after he finished his degree in music production at Full Sail University in 2017, he couldn’t find a job in the industry. So, Rivera made money where he could: He worked in an Apple Store, then nabbed a part-time gig for online tutoring company Outschool.

Those jobs weren’t satisfying or lucrative — at least compared to what he does now, he says. In February 2023, Rivera started selling print-on-demand candles on Etsy. At first, he worked four to five hours a day, and only brought in a couple hundred dollars a month.

Two months later, Rivera was on a date when his side hustle catapulted into popularity: He received over 70 orders that day, compared to his usual 10, he estimates. “I was so distracted because my phone wouldn’t stop buzzing.”

Now that Rivera’s shop is up and running, and has garnered over 5,000 reviews on Etsy, he only has to work 20 minutes a day to manage customer relations, he says. Last year, he brought in $462,000 in sales, according to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It. That averages to roughly $38,500 per month.

DON’T MISS: The ultimate guide to earning passive income online

Rivera estimates 30% to 50% of each sale is profit. The remaining cash pays for Etsy fees, which were nearly $55,000 last year, and marketing and Printify, the service he uses to connect with manufacturers. (Rivera asked to keep his shop’s name private, so other sellers don’t copy his products.)

The success of Rivera’s Etsy shop allowed him to quit his tutoring job in December. This year, he’s used his extra time to travel the world — he just returned from Bali — and work on personal music projects, he says.

“Some people love structure … but I just recognize that wasn’t for me,” Rivera, 26, tells CNBC Make It. “Being my own boss is very fulfilling.”

Here’s how Rivera honed his skills from past jobs to open a successful shop, and how he stands out in a saturated print-on-demand market.

Leveraging existing skills  

After college, Rivera worked in Apple stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for three years. There, he learned how to multi-task, build relationships and solve customers’ problems, even when people yelled at him, he says.

He moved to Orlando, his hometown, in 2020. There, he took the job with Outschool, where he taught 7- to 12-year-olds how to build social and critical thinking skills on the popular online game Minecraft. The pay was good, up to $100 per hour, and it was his introduction to online businesses, he says.

Rivera started seeking new ways to make income when demand for online tutoring waned after the pandemic, he says.

That’s when he stumbled on a YouTube video about print-on-demand. The popular side hustle has a simple concept: Sellers create designs for products like T-shirts, tote bags or mugs, then list the designs on online marketplaces. After an order is placed, a manufacturer prints the design onto the product and ships it directly to the customer.

As Rivera did more research, he realized just how many people were already selling apparel. More competition, another YouTube video informed him, would make it harder for his shop to go viral.

He scoured Printify’s catalog for more ideas, and landed on candles — a relatively new and less popular product, he figured — even though he’s allergic.

“I wanted to make an aesthetic, neutral candle that could fit into any space. I also love humor [so] I liked the idea of brainstorming phrases for specific niches,” he says.

His customer service skills also likely helped his shop quickly accumulate positive reviews and bolster his reputation on the platform, he says. (Etsy doesn’t disclose how its algorithm ranks its search results, but its seller’s handbook says shops need “fabulous feedback” to be successful.)

Trial and error leads to a winning formula

Rivera experiments with strategies, learned through trial and error and YouTube tutorials, to help his Etsy store stand out, he says.

He alters his product descriptions, updates product photos and invests in internal marketing on Etsy to get his candles in front of as many users as possible, he says.

It’s not an expensive model: Listing each product on Etsy costs $0.20, then the platform takes 6.5% of every sale. He borrows someone else’s Canva account, but the Pro version costs $120 per year.

Rivera’s side hustle model is simple as well. He starts with a photo of a candle with a blank label, adds a phrase — like “Smells like a Promotion,” which is popular for other sellers — on Canva. Then, he uploads the design to Etsy, and his linked Printify account sends the design to a manufacturer who ships the final product directly to customers.

While traveling, Rivera still works less than an hour per day. When he’s home in Orlando, he dedicates two hours at least one day per week to researching platform trends, he says.

The research phase is time consuming, but crucial to his success, Rivera says. He spends that time figuring out how to appeal to hyper-specific groups like hockey moms, new parents who hate dirty diapers, bridal parties, divorcees and people in long-distance relationships.

“I don’t technically have to work every day … You can [make this] passive all year round if you want to,” Rivera says. “You’re just not going to make quite as much.”

Rivera is considering expanding the business, potentially leaning into his tutoring expertise to produce his own print-on-demand YouTube videos, he says — but it comes with a cost. He’d have to give up his free time, and therefore, a slice of his music and traveling pursuits.

“There’s value in time and value and flexibility,” Rivera says. “I would take a pay cut if it still allowed me to do what I’m doing [with my free time].”

Want to make extra money outside of your day job? Sign up for CNBC’s new online course How to Earn Passive Income Online to learn about common passive income streams, tips to get started and real-life success stories.

Plus, sign up for CNBC Make It’s newsletter to get tips and tricks for success at work, with money and in life.