Airline agony: Spirit ranked worst, Southwest best, survey says

Spirit Airlines jet FBN

Taking to the skies aboard a commercial flight isn’t getting much better for passengers, and budget airline Spirit (NASDAQ:SAVE), isn’t getting great reviews from flyers, according to a new survey.

“In a ranking of the worst domestic airlines, Spirit led the pack [29 percent]. Only a statistically negligible six respondents named Spirit as their favorite,” the DealNews Air Travel survey said, adding that United (NYSE:UAL), which came under fire after a passenger was violently dragged off a flight in April, was the next-worse at 24 percent.

Conversely, Southwest (NYSE:LUV), another low-cost carrier, was listed as the top airline, according to responses to the survey.

“Though it's a no-frills airline, it fulfills our reader’s two biggest requirements, boasting a seat pitch of at least 31-inches on every plane and no fees for baggage (up to two bags), flight changes, or flight cancellations,” it said.

JetBlue (NASDAQ:JBLU) ranked second, while Delta (NYSE:DAL), Alaska (NYSE:ALK) and Virgin America (NASDAQ:VA) followed, respectively.

Respondents said a lack of legroom and fees were their biggest travel annoyances.

According to SeatGuru, a website that shows seat maps, reviews and ratings for the best and worst seats on airplanes, Spirit has a 28-inch pitch, making it the lowest rate among U.S. airliners.

The survey found the cost of a ticket was the most popular reason for purchasing airfare.

“A full 23 percent of respondents prioritize ticket price, and 14 percent consider the cost of checked baggage as well,” it said, adding, “41 percent of the readers who listed Spirit as their most-hated airline wouldn't travel with that carrier even if its tickets were the lowest price. In comparison, only 26 percent of readers who listed United as the worst airline wouldn't fly it for a bargain.”

Airline consumer complaints have risen over the previous year, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Transportation. According to the agency’s Air Travel Consumer Report which compiled data for April 2017, complaints about airline service were up 70 percent from the same time last year. On-time arrival rates among reporting air carriers fell from both March 2017 and April 2016.