Here's Why Spirit Is The Most Hated Airline In The U.S.

A just-completed 5-year study reveals that the company receives far and away the most consumer complaints of any domestic airline.

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.

[Image: Flickr user Aero Icarus]

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9 Comments

  • andrewfranklind

    Spirit Air isn't good value at any price. I was nickel and dimed to death, then had to endure the most uncomfortable flight of my life. I wrote them a note to the effect that they could make more money if they charged 5cents per breath/per passenger to defray the cost of their air handling systems. No doubt, they will be instituting that charge soon.

  • I can't help but wonder how many pro-Spirit comments are real, and how many are fake, LOL. If they are getting that many complaints and fines, you're either a fool to fly with them, or you're a cheapskate whom doesn't care how you're treated as long as you pay less.

    Personally, my money means something to me, and I NEVER give it to the undeserving or the disrespectful. I can't speak for their safety record, because I don't know. However, it's patently obvious that Spirit doesn't respect its passengers, if it keeps violating consumer protection laws.

  • kss1980

    You know, Spirit is a good airline. They are always the cheapest for last minute tickets. Every other airline charges you for stuff you don't use. You sit in 9B and order a coke but nobody else orders a coke, the other carries are going to charge you for everybody else even if they don't drink it. Explain how thats fair? The biggest problem is with Travelocity and Expedia. They are are ones who are fleecing people about fees. They don't want to disclose them because less people will use their website. For a cheap ticket, go to Spirit.com.

  • Martin B Smith Jr.

    I know I will be roundly castigated but Spirit offers a good basic service at a very reasonable price. I fly them about 20 times a year and I have always found the aircraft clean and apparently well maintained and the staff are courteous. In fact I find the cabin crew much more enthusiastic and passenger centric than any of the legacy airlines.

    Spirit's website is very clear about what you need to purchase and has all the details. My experience is that in dozens and dozens of flights there were two delays. One was clearly weather as I could see the fog and the other was for some sort of equipment problem.

    So, for all you people that want to trash the airline my advice is stop living in the ancient past and realize that Spirit is where all airlines are going. They just got their first and in my opinion performing better than any of the others.

  • but if you book on Spirit through travelocity or another travel website, you don't know that you're going to be charged more for CARRY ON BAGS than checked bags. ridiculous!

  • frequentflyer46

    Spirit has taken consumer humiliation to new level. It thrives on ignorant traveler who would shortchange basic rights, such as reclining seats and some basic travel such as carry on bag for few bucks.. It is an excuse for an airline making US air travel seem like a third world travel expereince...