Hamooda Shami over at Yahoo! Travel put together a list of the five worst major airlines and the four worst regional airlines. To formulate his scores, he took a look at the Airline Quality Rating (AQR) Report and a "number of other sources" including the American Customer Satisfaction Index and the Air Travel Consumer Reports by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Let’s take a look:
FIVE WORST MAJOR AIRLINES
5. US Airways
While US Airways improved five percent in passenger satisfaction according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, they were one of three airlines cited as having the rudest flight attendants and serving the worst food.
I generally avoid US Air at all costs because of their bad reputation, but as I’ve said before, I take a few flights each year on US Airways and can’t say that I’ve had a bad experience. In fact, earlier this year I had great service and food from IAD-PHX and again from PHX-BUR. FA’s (both ex-America West so maybe that explains it…) were great.
4. American Airlines
This year AA has had frequent incidents of mishandled baggage with an average of 4.07 reports per 1,000 passengers, according to the Air Travel Consumer Reports (this is the worst rating among the major airlines in the study).
I don’t fly on American Airlines, but I have taken a few trips on American Eagle. More on that below.
3. Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines has an Airline Quality Rating (AQR) of -1.39, which can be partially attributed to the airline’s high number of mishandled baggage reports…However, Alaska Airlines did a stellar job when it came to delays, with 88 percent of its flights having on-time arrivals.
Good thing I don’t check bags…I only use Alaska Airlines to fly n/s between LAX and DCA and always upgrade to first class when I do, so I’m probably not all that qualified to comment on AS overall. But, I’ve always found ground staff, Board Room staff, and FA’s to have been satisfactory. Their seats in first class aren’t the most comfortable, but their food is good.
2. United Airlines
Now that the merger with Continental Airlines is official, United can turn its attention to improving customer service. United received a score of "about average" in the J.D. Power 2010 North America Airline Satisfaction Study but it placed last in passenger satisfaction in the American Customer Satisfaction Index. According to the SeatGuru survey, United joins American Airlines and US Airways as one of the three worst airlines for meals and rude flight attendants. In addition, the Air Travel Consumer Reports places this airline second in consumer complaints (behind Delta), averaging 1.82 per 100,000 enplanements in 2010.
Whatever. I know I am sheltered by being a 1K, but I don’t think people give UA enough credit, especially when something goes wrong. If you complain to UA about anything at all you can expect a generous voucher or deposit of miles, even if you’re a GM. CO just scoffs at you. At the airports, I always closely watch the way UA treats GMs when they come up with questions at the boarding gate or when I’m in the customer service line and I just haven’t witnessed anything egregious (or even rude) lately. International cabin crews have been disappointing, IME, but are no worse than CO’s. Airline meals also aren’t great, but at least UA offers special meals on all meal service flights in domestic first class and their BOB menu is not any worse than the competition (though I applaud CO’s new hot options for sale behind the curtain).
1. Delta Air Lines
Delta had the worst AQR among major airlines with a -1.73, and a couple of its regional airlines did even worse (see Comair and Atlantic Southeast below). It also had the largest drop in passenger satisfaction in the American Customer Satisfaction Index. According to the Air Travel Consumer Reports, Delta was number one in delays for major airlines (78 percent of flights arriving on time in the 12-month period ending August 2010) and first in consumer complaints (averaging 2.23 per 100,000 enplanements in 2010).
Although I have not flown on Delta this year, I was a Delta Platinum last year and never had a problem with them. Upgrades came through, my flights were never late, and service was satisfactory, though not outstanding. I though their ground staff at PHL was pretty weak, but really liked the agents I dealt with in SLC.
FOUR WORST REGIONAL AIRLINES
SkyWest received a -1.57 AQR, which is the fifth worst score overall among the airlines covered in the 2010 Airline Quality Ratings. One area that contributed to this score was mishandled baggage, where they averaged 5.69 incidents per 1,000 passengers last year.
I’ve flown every regional airline in America, and Skywest is my favorite. With the exception of one bad crew from HSV-DEN last year, I consistently find Skywest to be the best regional product. The only time I do check bags is when I am going home for a long period, which always involves a flight on Skywest. My bags have never been lost or delayed.
…Mishandled baggage was an issue, with an average of 6.04 incidents per 1,000 passengers last year. Comair was also number one in delays overall…
I’ve been on Comair a couple times, with no-carryon baggage. Nothing to report.
2. Atlantic Southeast
…It has the second most incidents of mishandled baggage (6.67 reports per 1,000 passengers on average in 2010 so far) according to the Air Travel Consumer Reports…
This subsidiary of Skywest has never been a problem.
1. American Eagle
With a -2.83 AQR score, American Eagle has the unwelcome distinction of having the worst score overall among the airlines covered in the 2010 Airline Quality Ratings. According to the Air Travel Consumer Reports, it also had the most incidents of mishandled baggage (7.41 reports per 1,000 passengers on average in 2010 so far) and was number two in delays, with only 76 percent of flights arriving on time in the 12-month period ending August 2010…
I was just on American Eagle a couple weeks ago when I flew from San Juan to Antigua and back. I’ve also flown AE on their DCA-LGA service. My DCA-LGA and LGA-DCA flights were both delayed over two hours each, but fault lies in NYC ATC, not American Eagle. I found the FA’s to be perfectly satisfactory.
I realize my rubric and analysis is much different than the normative scoring used to formulate the rankings above, but here’s my picks for "meanest" airlines (I’ll just stick to just one per category):
Look, I know I’ve been down on CO lately, but their "the only thing that matters is $" approach and "all customer are equal therefore we should treat all customer poorly" paradigm seemingly embodied by many FAs and customer service agents has been beyond disappointing. I haven’t given up yet on CO: I’ve got another trip on CO coming up in a few weeks and hope I can report back positively.
I think for most people, Continental would never be ranked as the meanest airline. They provide a consistent product with generally good IFE and a good BOB menu. But in terms of the things that matter to me: handling irr/ops and treating elites, they rank at the bottom of my list.
With UA’s new routing restrictions I haven’t used TransStates nearly as much this year (though I have two TransStates flights tomorrow). Not only have I ran into many delays, I find that FA’s are often untrained, rude, and lazy. Even if there is more than enough time for a beverage service, often they will refuse to budge from their seats during a (45 minute) flight. Sometimes they do. If they consistently did not, it would be one thing, but the variations in practice are annoying. TranStates pilots and FAs also like to make up rules. I avoid them when I can…
Who would you pick for meanest airlines?