The golden age of flying is far behind us. These days, airlines are more concerned about increasing their margins and have resorted to cramming passengers like sardines, levying fees for snacks and checked baggage, and bumping travelers due to overbooked flights.
Not many contemporary air passengers feel great about airlines—but which one do they especially loathe? According to a five-year study on the industry from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, Spirit Airlines leads by a wide margin as most hated airline in the U.S. This year, in fact, Spirit received so many complaints that the report excluded it from its deeper analysis in order to see trends in on-time performance, baggage mishandling, and more.
"Two checked bags, basic meals and snacks, carry-ons, and, often, in-flight entertainment were formerly included in the price of your ticket, but now add-on fees for each of these newly a la carte items can easily add $100 or more to the cost of a one-way ticket," noted the report, which analyzed consumer complaints filed with the Department of Transportation.
Spirit also received the largest number of complaints every year from 2009 to 2013. And the Department of Transportation has fined Spirit $565,000 cumulatively in five violations of consumer protection laws since 2008. On the other end of the consumer spectrum, Southwest Airlines received the fewest complaints. Alaska Airlines was just behind Southwest, was named the most on-time airline, and received few complaints of baggage mishandling.
Known for its low prices, Spirit also happens to be the most profitable airline in the U.S.