Question: What is the worst airline in the United States?
Answer: The one you’re flying!
Everyone has an airline-related horror story, and business travellers tend to have far more than most. We’ve endured long lines at security, nightmarish parking lots and poor customer service even before the wheels leave the ground. Yet, talk of which airline is really the worst typically descends into a game of “my boss is meaner than your boss,” making anything resembling an objective conclusion unlikely.
Well, that’s about to change.
The Airline Quality Rating (AQR) Report just came out, covering 18 U.S. carriers. In the spirit of fairness, the AQR rates large and regional airlines separately – because they tended to score even lower than their already dismal bigger counterparts.
According to Yahoo! Travel, the report was developed using airline industry experts, which evaluated various aspects of airline quality, including “on-time arrival, mishandled baggage, delays and involuntary denied boardings.” It also considered other sources, such as the American Customer Satisfaction Index and the Air Travel Consumer Reports by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
So, who sucks most? Take a look at the worst five below:
It’s scary that Delta’s regionals were even worse than the mother ship. This airline suffered the largest decline in passenger satisfaction according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, and led in delays according to the Air Travel Consumer Reports, with only 78 per cent arriving on time. The consumer complaint rate hit 2.23 per 100,000 enplanements, making it worst overall. There isn’t really a lot of good news here for Delta.
Conclusion: Take the bus, however long it takes.
2. United Airlines
There are conflicting reports on customer service with United, as it scored “above average” with J.D. Power and last in the American Customer Satisfaction Index. SeatGuru’s survey last year puts United with American and US Airways for meals and flight attendants that won’t agree with you. And, it only trails Delta in consumer complaints, with 1.82 per 100,000 enplanements, Yahoo! Travel reports.
Conclusion: Bring your own food, and sit in a window seat to avoid the beverage cart.
3. Alaska Airlines
Alaska got nailed for mishandled baggage reports, with a rate of 3.98 incidents per thousand passengers. This is particularly tough given the airline’s 88 per cent on-time arrival rate. Basically, you hit the ground on time but wind up at your destination late because your bags didn’t make it. Sneaky …
Conclusion: Stick to carry-on luggage. Find a way to make it fit.
4. American Airlines
Though its reputation got spanked because of its regional airline, American Eagle (the worst of the regional carriers), it seems American has some room to improve on its own. The airline’s mishandled baggage rate of 4.07 reports per 1,000 passengers makes it the worst in the report, and its flight attendants were among the bottom three in the survey. American ranked worst in food. So, don’t eat, and don’t expect anyone to offer you something anyway.
Conclusion: Definitely take a carry-on. Bring your own food, and keep your head down.
5. US Airways
What’s scary is that US Airways actually improved in passenger satisfaction (why can’t they just call it “customer satisfaction” like every other business?) according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index. It was one of the three worst in terms of flight attendant rudeness and food in a SeatGuru survey last year.
Conclusion: Fly Air Koryo, the North Korean airline, instead.
Here’s some advice to these five airlines, and the rest of the industry for that matter: don’t get defensive. Your customers are speaking to you. Now is the time to listen, take a hard look at your operations and employees and do something that makes a difference. You may be constrained by regulations, weather and other forces beyond your control, but this doesn’t mean your hands are tied. Use this opportunity to understand your customers’ concerns and take meaningful action.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.