Worst Airline In America: Spirit Airlines

Photo provided by Spirit Airlines

The results are in for the latest yearly American Customer Service Index (ACSI), and Spirit Airlines has taken the award for the worst airline despite it being only its first year in the rankings.

Spirit is known as being one of America’s ultra-low cost carriers, preferring to charge customers for things the airline deems as an add-on such as checked bags, drinks, and seat assignments in favor of saving money for customers that do not need these extra benefits. The company believes its business model helps each customer save 40% of what it would have spent on a legacy carrier.

Company spokesperson Paul Berry stated “Once they fly us once and they get it, they love us; they know how to navigate the Spirit way of flying.”

The airline is able to charge customers less not just because they charge for add-on features, but also because of the type of aircraft it operates. Spirit operates an all Airbus fleet, squeezing 174 seats into an A320 aircraft. Each seat has only 17.75 inches of width with no recline and a 28 inch pitch, making it the smallest seats in the industry. In 2013 Spirit was downgraded to a 2-star airline, putting it below every airline in America and being placed in the same grouping as consistently failing international airlines such as Sudan Airways and Bulgaria Air.

Since its transition to being an ultra low-cost carrier in 2007, Spirit has received record numbers of complaints from around the country. In 2004 it received 9.4 complaints per 1000 travels, by far the highest in the industry and more than quadruple the amount of legacy carriers American Airlines and United Airlines.

However, the most shocking story about Spirit came in 2007 when Christy and Jim Boswell, customers of Spirit, sent an email to Spirit requesting compensation after having a 3 hour flight delay and having to deal with rude customer representatives from the airline that would not provide updates to the passengers. The couple had simply requested reimbursement for the flight, parking and concert tickets that no longer held value because of the delayed flight, but were sent a surprising response. By mistake, the CEO of the airline, Ben Baldanza, hit reply-all to the email rather than simply replying to someone in the company.

Baldanza’s email stated “Please respond, Pasquale, but we owe him [Jim Boswell] nothing as far as I’m concerned. Let him tell the world how bad we are. He’s never flown us before anyway and will be back when we save him a penny.”

Joe Pesek

Joe Pesek

Joe joined AirlineGeeks in 2014, and in his current role as Editor-in-Chief manages a growing team of writers both in North America and Europe. He enjoys spending the bulk of his time researching, learning and analyzing the latest trends in the airline industry, all while mentoring new members of the AirlineGeeks team who seek to do the same. Areas of research include revenue management, codeshare and alliance partnerships and airline financial results.
Joe Pesek