These Are the Most Hated Airlines in the United States
Anybody who’s flown can make a long list of reasons to hate airlines: They charge ridiculous fees. Many have restrictive baggage policies and poor customer service. And all of them subject passengers to annoying delays, crazy boarding processes, and other inconveniences.
Every traveler has a story about an airline they’ll never fly again. And some carriers have emerged as the most hated airlines in the U.S. Read on to discover which airlines Americans hate the most.
Southwest didn’t earn truly terrible scores on The Points Guy’s ranking of airlines in the United States. But it didn’t do particularly well either. Customers like the airline’s low baggage fees. They also appreciate that the carrier charges reasonable change fees if they need to switch flights or go with a different plan.
But that’s about where the positives end. The Points Guy notes Southwest has “higher airfares than most people realize and no premium class seats, which hurt its cabin comfort score.”
Next: Our biggest complaint about Southwest
What we hate most about Southwest
You might think you can live with uncomfortable seats or airfares that are less than a bargain. But do you really want to deal with the airline’s overly complicated boarding process? Southwest has grown notorious for its open seating policy. You’ll be assigned a boarding group (A, B, or C) and position (1 to 60 or more) upon check-in.
As the carrier’s website explains, “Numbered posts in each of our gate areas indicate where to line up. When your boarding group is called, find your designated place in line and board the aircraft in numerical order with your boarding group.” From there, you have no assurances and no assigned seats, so you just have to choose any available seat.
9. Hawaiian Airlines
According to The Points Guy’s research, Hawaiian Airlines didn’t score so well either. Hawaiian may have a good record of on-time flights, and that’s always a plus. But customers don’t like that this carrier has the smallest route network. They also don’t appreciate that it charges relatively high fares. (For many people, choosing an airline is all about finding the cheapest fares.)
Plus, the airline has airport lounges in Hawaii only, which hurts its standings among business travelers and those who like traveling in premium cabins. Plus, customers don’t love its frequent-flyer program.
Next: What we hate most about Hawaiian
Our biggest complaint about Hawaiian
The Points Guy didn’t unearth anything terrible about Hawaiian, but the airline has garnered plenty of bad press from other sources. One of the most notable stories in recent memory? Travelers filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Transportation when the airline started weighing passengers before boarding one of its routes.
Many criticized the policy not only as discriminatory, but also as an unnecessary hassle for travelers. Passengers also dislike that on the flights in question, to and from the American Samoa, the airline will only assign a seat once you’ve arrived at the airport.
8. SkyWest Airlines
Researchers at Wichita State University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University compiled 2017’s Airline Quality Rating, which pointed to SkyWest as another disliked airline. This carrier — which partners with big names, such as United, Delta, Alaska Airlines, and American Airlines — got a pretty respectable score for overall customer satisfaction.
But passengers dislike some specific things about how this airline does business. They don’t like SkyWest’s record of denied boarding. Plus, they don’t appreciate its record of mishandled and lost baggage.
Next: Our biggest complaint about SkyWest
What we hate most about SkyWest
The last thing anxious travelers want to hear is their airline isn’t properly maintaining its jets. But you can’t help but wonder about SkyWest. In 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration leveled speed and altitude restrictions at the carrier. Those restrictions came following an incident in which one of its planes allegedly stalled.
Experts said at the time that at higher altitudes, minor mistakes can cause jets to stall. Slow speeds can also cause a jet to stall. However, SkyWest said the plane didn’t stall and preferred to refer to the incident as a “slow speed event.” Forgive us if we aren’t 100% confident in that explanation.
7. United Airlines
United Airlines has been repeatedly fined for tarmac delays over the years. In fact, the U.S. government took the airline to task for keeping passengers stranded on delayed flights for more than three hours.
The Points Guy notes passengers already think United “could use some improvement in customer satisfaction.” That doesn’t bode well for the airline’s scores in the future because the carrier became one of the most hated airlines in a single day by dragging a paying customer off a plane.
United has recently scored in the middle of the pack for customer satisfaction. But that might not last long if the airline’s reputation continues to deteriorate.
Next: What we hate most about United
Our biggest complaint about United
Even before the airline dragged a customer off one of its planes, the carrier had major problems. According to the most recent American Customer Satisfaction Index, United is the worst legacy airline in the United States. But that’s not our biggest beef with the carrier.
Following the infamous 2017 incident, numerous Redditors shared their worst United experiences. While we’re sure you could find a few horror stories about every airline, the stories shared on the site really make it obvious that United has had a customer service problem for a long time.
6. Allegiant Air
Allegiant Air, a low-cost American airline, doesn’t have a lot of fans. Fortune reports marketing agency Fractl analyzed more than a million tweets to figure out which airlines Americans love and which ones they hate, and Allegiant got a lot of negative mentions on the social network.
In fact, it conducted the study during the busy travel season between Thanksgiving and Christmas — exactly when we’d like an airline to be especially responsive and accommodating — but it seems that Allegiant was neither.
Next: Our biggest complaint about Allegiant
What we hate most about Allegiant
Though Allegiant isn’t the most hated airline, it’s definitely not the most loved either. People who’ve flown on Allegiant jets note that the interiors look worn and dirty. If you want water, you can’t get it for free. In fact, you’ll have to pay $2 for a bottle. (At least that keeps you from drinking the plane’s tap water, which is notoriously infested with bacteria.)
Even printing a boarding pass at the airport will cost you $5. All in all, Allegiant exemplifies exactly what we don’t like about low-cost airlines: You get what you pay for — or even less when you book these budget carriers.
5. Delta Air Lines
Fractl found a much bigger airline, Delta, did even worse than Allegiant in terms of negative comments on social media. It’s not just customers taking note of Delta’s poor performance either. Inc. reports the Transportation Department recently fined Delta $200,000 for underreporting the number of mishandled baggage complaints it received from passengers.
Nobody wants to get to their destination only to realize their bag is lost or delayed. So some people choose which airline to fly based on the carrier’s record of lost and mishandled bags.
Next: What we hate most about Delta
Our biggest complaint about Delta
The Week reported a couple of years ago that Delta is the least-respected brand in America. As the publication points out, travelers document their various grievances with the airline via websites such as NeverFlyDelta, DeltaReallySucks, and HateDelta.
The biggest complaints center around flight delays, poor service, and astronomical luggage fees. Each of those complaints is bad enough on its own. But nobody wants to cope with all three issues on a single flight.
4. American Airlines
Next on Fractl’s list of the most hated airlines? Another major carrier, American Airlines. Fortune notes American has a long history of low customer service rankings, at least in part because of issues that arose following its 2013 merger with U.S. Airways.
According to Inc., the government fined American $250,000 after it determined the carrier failed to make timely refunds to customers. Plus, American has a poor record of on-time flights. However, at least American recently brought back free snacks, perhaps as a concession to customers dissatisfied with the airline’s level of service.
Next: Our biggest complaint about American
What we hate most about American
Disgruntled customers have found plenty of things to hate about American. But our latest complaint about the carrier is that it’s added a basic economy fare. These stripped-down fares carry lower price tags, which sounds like a win for passengers. But at American and other airlines, they come with lots of caveats.
Passengers in this ticket class don’t get a seat assignment until check-in. They also can’t use the overhead bin space. And they’ll be the last to board the aircraft. Additionally, the tickets are nonrefundable and ineligible for an upgrade.
The most recent Airline Quality Rating by Wichita State University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University calls out another airline that many Americans have flown: ExpressJet. This Georgia-based airline got decent scores for customer satisfaction. However, it ranked much lower for baggage service and for the number of denied boarding (such as in cases of overbooked flights). It’s everybody’s nightmare to end up on an overbooked flight. So if the frequency with which an airline has to bump passengers matters to you, you’ll want to steer clear of ExpressJet.
Next: What we hate most about ExpressJet
Our biggest complaint about ExpressJet
ExpressJet’s record of overbooking flights and bumping passengers sounds bad enough. But it might be even worse that the airline numbers among the worst for flying home to visit your family around the holidays. The worst offenders when it comes to holiday-season cancellations of flights are regional carriers, including ExpressJet.
These carriers cancel flights up to three times more frequently than major carriers. That’s especially annoying for customers because ExpressJet, and other airlines like it, operate under the name of major carriers. So you might not even know that you’re on an ExpressJet flight until you get to the airport.
2. Frontier Airlines
Fractl also observed a lot of negative mentions for Frontier Airlines — so many, in fact, that Frontier ranked as the second worst airline out of all the airlines studied. Frontier is another airline with a long history of poor customer satisfaction scores. Inc. reports the airline got hit with a hefty $400,000 fine for involuntarily bumping passengers from overbooked flights without first seeking volunteers.
The carrier didn’t even provide proper compensation in a timely manner. Even worse? The airline also failed to provide disabled passengers with wheelchair assistance to board and exit the aircraft and to get around the terminal.
Next: Our biggest complaint about Frontier
What we hate most about Frontier
As a low-cost carrier, Frontier is an easy airline to hate because it charges extra for just about everything, whether you want a seat assignment in advance or want to check your bag. But there’s something more that makes Frontier one of the most hated airlines.
The fine leveled at the airline for its overbooking practices came not only because Frontier bumped customers, but also because it failed to explain to them that they were eligible for cash compensation. Agents often told passengers they could only get a voucher, rather than cash or a check. That sounds pretty unfair to us.
1. Spirit Airlines
Spirit came in at No. 1 in Fractl’s study on the most hated airlines. Fortune reports at one point, Spirit “practically invited passengers to hate it. And they did. The latest American Customer Satisfaction Index ranks Spirit dead last, with a score of only 54 out of a possible 100.” Spirit has won some customers over, mostly by offering lower prices, according to CNN.
But many dissatisfied customers note even when Spirit’s fares are low, the airline manages to make up for it by charging for carry-ons, for water on the plane, and for printing a boarding pass.
Next: What we hate most about Spirit
Our biggest complaint about Spirit
Spirit’s extreme version of the no-frills ethos, common among budget airlines, may work for the carrier’s bottom line, but it grates on passengers’ nerves. For years, travelers have been nearly unanimous about hating Spirit.
Passengers hate that a ticket on this budget airline often ends up costing just as much as the same trip on a major carrier, thanks to all the add-ons and unavoidable fees they have to pay after booking. That’s a deceptive way to get customers on board an aircraft — and most passengers resent Spirit’s policies.