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The USA’s Worst Airlines

by Melanie Lieberman

The Worst Airlines for Customer Service: The top four domestic US based airlines that failed to impress travelers with their customer service (or any service, really).

Plenty of things can make a flight unpleasant: rough skies, weather-related cancelations and delays, even tarantulas roaming the cabin mid-flight. But how an airline’s staff and crew handle these mishaps—and treats passengers—can turn an annoying (or creepy-crawly) situation into a complete nightmare.

Customer service is one of the few things airlines have total control over, but poorly trained or apathetic employees can tarnish a carrier’s reputation. Every year, Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards survey asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences from across the globe—to cast their votes for the top hotels, islands, cities, spas, and more. Readers ranked airlines on a number of categories, including cabin comfort, food, value, and customer service. And when it came to the latter, some carriers failed to perform in 2016.

Travelers flying with the domestic budget airline, Frontier, described a remarkable drop in customer service. “This airline is on a downward slide,” said one reader, while another added: “even their once great flight attendants have become robotic and mostly uncaring.” It’s not just cranky gate agents and brusque flight attendants that account for bad customer service. Of course, there are plenty of airlines out there that are treating travelers right—and the world’s worst airlines for customer service could learn a thing or two about hospitality.

No. 4 United Airlines – Domestic USA Flights

No. 3 Frontier Airlines

No. 2 Allegiant Air


No. 1 Spirit Airlines

“We will never fly Spirit again no matter what the rate,” said reader Amy Barwick of the low-cost carrier, “because you’ll end up paying the difference in further frustrations later.” Spirit continues to bottom out with T+L readers, who were routinely dismayed by the airline’s lack of customer service. “I know [flight attendants] are there for safety,” said another survey respondent, “but I’m not sure they would put passengers first [in] an emergency.” Many readers interacted with rude employees, and just as many said it’s impossible to speak with a customer service representative. Expect to be bullied at the gate into paying for checked baggage fees. Even on Twitter, “Spirit Autopilot” tries to deflect complaints with bot-generated responses.

“Do not go where the path leads, travel instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”  @wbbrjp

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