The Best and Worst Airlines, According to Customer Complaints

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COMPLAINTS SOAR

If air travel seems to try your patience more these days than ever before, you’re not alone. As many as 60 percent of Americans feel the experience of flying economy has gotten worse thanks to cost-cutting measures like overbooking flights and reducing legroom, according to a 2017 survey. According to the government, the number of complaints per passenger has gone down, but it's no surprise that flying has become a sometimes bloody and dramatic hassle.

Southwest Airlines taking off from McCarran Airport in Las Vegas
Photo credit: Chris Parypa Photography/shutterstock

SIXTH-FEWEST COMPLAINTS: SOUTHWEST AIRLINES

With 76 complaints out of an industry-high 15 million passenger boardings, or enplanements, for the month surveyed (July 2018), reliably low-cost Southwest ranked as just the sixth least-frustrating American airline. That may seem like a big drop from their first place ranking in 2017, but their rate of complaints has remained relatively constant, going from 0.44 complaints per 100,000 fliers last year to 0.51 this year.

PSAairlines
Photo credit: PSAairlines/facebook.com

FIFTH-FEWEST COMPLAINTS: PSA AIRLINES

Rounding out the top five — and making its first appearance in these rankings — is PSA, a regional airline headquartered in Dayton that flies under the American Eagle brand. For the month surveyed the airline received six complaints for more than 1.2 million systemwide enplanements, or 0.49 per 100,000 passengers.

Endeavor Air
Photo credit: 9EAir/facebook.com

FOURTH-FEWEST COMPLAINTS: ENDEAVOR AIR

Barely edging out PSA is Endeavor Air, another newcomer to the list this year. The Twin Cities-quartered regional airline otherwise operating as Delta Connection similarly received six complaints from just shy of 1.3 million boardings, at a rate of 0.47 per 100,000 travelers.

Hawaiian Airlines taking off from McCarran Airport in Las Vegas
Photo credit: Chris Parypa Photography/shutterstock

THIRD-FEWEST COMPLAINTS: HAWAIIAN AIRLINES

Ascending two places up the list from last year, Hawaiian recorded five complaints from 1.08 million enplanements — the second least amount of passengers for any airline listed. The Honolulu-based airline’s rate of complaints per 100,000 boardings equates to 0.46 this year, compared to 0.77 in 2017.

Skywest Airlines
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SECOND-FEWEST COMPLAINTS: SKYWEST AIRLINES

Skywest reported only 15 complaints from more than 3.6 million passenger boardings, or 0.41 for every 100,000 boardings — a small improvement over last year’s rate of 0.51 from just over 3.3 million enplanements. For those who don’t recognize the name, this St. George, Utah-based regional airline typically flies under the name of larger airlines it’s contracted with like United, Alaska, and Delta.

ExpressJet Airlines
Photo credit: ExpressJet N12569 by Andrew W. Sieber (CC BY-NC)

FEWEST COMPLAINTS: EXPRESSJET AIRLINES

Neatly swapping places with Southwest from last year’s rankings, ExpressJet earns this year’s title of the least frustrating airline in America, having received just three complaints from 824,164 enplanements — also the lowest number of boardings for any airline listed. Still, that equates to a paltry 0.36 complaints per 100,000 passengers, much better than last year’s rate of 1.15.

United Airlines taking off from McCarran Airport in Las Vegas
Photo credit: Chris Parypa Photography/shutterstock

SIXTH-MOST COMPLAINTS: UNITED AIRLINES

This July, United Airlines received 136 complaints from 11.2 million passengers, or 1.21 complaints per 100,000 enplanements. That means United cut its rate of complaints in half compared to the 2017 report, and still wound up near ranking on the lower end.

Envoy Air
Photo credit: envoyaircareers/facebook.com

FIFTH-MOST COMPLAINTS: ENVOY AIR

Envoy Air (formerly American Eagle) enters the list for the first time this year. The Dallas area-air carrier received 20 complaints from more than 1.5 million enplanements, or a rate of 1.61 per 100,000 — not far off from that of parent company American Airlines.

American Airlines taking off from McCarran Airport in Las Vegas
Photo credit: Chris Parypa Photography/shutterstock

FOURTH-MOST COMPLAINTS: AMERICAN AIRLINES

With more than 13.8 million enplanements, American performed more boardings than all but Delta and Southwest Airlines, yet racked up more complaints than the other two combined: 234. That's more than any other airline on the list, equating to 1.69 complaints per 100,000 boardings — a significant improvement from last year’s rate of 2.48, even if their place on the list remained the same.

Allegiant Air
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THIRD-MOST COMPLAINTS: ALLEGIANT AIR

Another newcomer to the rankings this year, Vegas-based Allegiant Air ranked poorly for receiving complaints at a rate of 1.70 per 100,000 boardings — roughly 26 complaints per approximately 1.5 million passengers. The budget airline has been criticized for undertaking a high number of emergency landings and buying secondhand aircraft, much like its now-defunct progenitor ValuJet.

Spirit Airlines taking off from McCarran Airport in Las Vegas
Photo credit: Chris Parypa Photography/shutterstock

SECOND-MOST COMPLAINTS: SPIRIT AIRLINES

Spirit ascends to one spot above last in this year’s rankings, with only 98 complaints for about 2.8 million passengers, or a rate of 3.55 per 100,000 enplanements. That may pale in comparison to most of the competition, but it’s quite a step up for the Florida-based budget carrier from last year, when they received 6.03 complaints per 100,000 enplanements.

Frontier Airlines taking off from John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, California
Photo credit: Philip Pilosian/shutterstock

MOST COMPLAINTS: FRONTIER AIRLINES

With 106 complaints received from more than 1.8 million passenger boardings, Frontier is the worst of the worst in this year’s ranking. The Denver-based budget airline notorious for bumping passengers earned up 5.82 complaints per 100,000 enplanements, considerably worse than last year, when it racked up only 55, or 3.40 for every 100,000 boardings.

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