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Top 10 airlines striving to be the worst

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 29th, 2011
Catholic Online (

Airlines have worked hard to earn a bad reputation. Remember those veterans returning from Afghanistan who were charged extra just to haul their equipment? How about the passenger who reported his baggage soaked in urine? Even if you don't remember those horror stories from earlier this year, you probably have one of your own. 

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Seemingly at perpetual war against their own customers, airlines have been blasted for cutting back service, overbooking, eliminating in-flight meals, reducing leg room, and charging extra for basic amenities, fuel and baggage. This isn't something that happens by accident--but rather it's a result of systematic policies designed to eek every dollar of profit from haggard and worn travelers who frequently feel trapped and taken advantage of by the intensely controlled and regulated industry. 

One of the growing methods of complaint is via YouTube and Twitter. Posts there have a tendency to go viral very quickly, so airlines are now paying attention. Within hours of complaints, airlines have made a point of loudly and publicly addressing such concerns.

Aside from the internet, the Department of Transportation takes complaints, the serious ones. And from January to June 2011, they registered nearly 3,600 official complaints--almost 20 per day, a staggering number, considering most complaints are never voiced to either the DoT or the internet.

Using information released from the DoT, here is the top 10 list of America's worst airlines, based on official complaints.

#10 Skywest Airlines

.77 complaints per 100,000 passengers

Independently owned Skywest has a relatively low rate of complaints. It flew 12 million passengers in the first half of 2011.

#9 Atlantic Southeast Airlines
.96 complaints per 100,000 passengers

Atlantic Southeast will merge with our number 8, ExpressJet Airlines before the end of the year. They operate close to 1,000 flights per year and have been known to monitor Twitter posts.

#8 ExpressJet Airlines 
1.01 complaints per 100,000 passengers

Doing worse than last year, their rate of complaints is up from .70 in 2010. It is unknown if they will be listening as Atlantic Southeast does.

#7 JetBlue Airways

1.07 complaints per 100,000 passengers

JetBlue is known for its budget service, yet does considerable volume. The number of seats filled on the airline is up and the airline has added capacity. Still, the number of complaints is high compare to other budget airlines.

#6 Delta Airlines

1.27 complaints per 100,000 passengers

Delta has suffered some bad press recently. Both of the horror stories outlined above occurred on Delta flights. However, following its recent merger with Northwest, the airline has made strides in improving its customer experience. Its current rate of complaints is half what it was a year ago.

#5 American Airlines

1.50 complaints per 100,000 passengers

One of the most responsive airlines to Twitter posts. Their rate of complaints is uncomfortably high, but at least they are working to address them, including the ones on social media.

#4 American Eagle Airlines

1.67 complaints per 100,000 passengers

Cancellations and lost baggage have helped this airline muscle its way to the number 4 spot. It's rate of complaints is double what they were last year, up from .87 to 1.67.

#3 Continental Airlines

1.70 complaints per 100,000 passengers

On a disturbing trend, poor customer service and problems with the flights themselves are helping Continental increase its rate of complaints over last year.

#2 US Airways

1.73 complaints per 100,000 passengers

Like Continental, US Airways is on a disturbing trend. Flight delays, cancellations, and lost luggage are standard fare for complaints.

#1 United Airlines

2.01 complaints per 100,000 passengers

To get to this spot, you probably have to try. Well above its closest follower, US Airways, United Airlines took the top spot in complaints for the first half of 2011.

If you encounter poor service, or worse, it pays to complain. Most airlines are becoming sensitive about their public image, especially as social media grows and the government takes increasing interest in their activities. Recent reforms have been implemented with more to come in January, 2012. Those reforms are expected to make things better, but are not likely to fix the all problems of dissatisfied customers.


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