Biggest U.S. airlines among worst in customer service: study

Thu Apr 10, 2014 3:38pm EDT
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(Reuters) - Bigger isn't necessarily better when it comes to airlines.

American (AAL.O: Quote) and United (UAL.N: Quote), the two largest U.S. carriers, are also tops in customer complaints, a study released by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund on Thursday shows.

The consumer advocacy group found that the two carriers ranked in the top four for complaints for 2011 through 2013, based on Department of Transportation data.

The worst performer was Spirit Airlines (SAVE.O: Quote), which had the most complaints among 13 U.S. carriers each year in the study which spanned 2009 through 2013.

Southwest Airlines (LUV.N: Quote), the fourth largest U.S. carrier by traffic, had the lowest customer complaint scores for each of those years.

United Continental Holdings ranked second in complaints in 2011 and 2012, and dropped to third in 2013, the study shows. American Airlines was fourth in 2011, third in 2012, and fourth in 2013.

At United, complaints spiked in 2012 to 4.28 per 100,000 passengers, its highest in the five years studied, after technology changes during the merger with Continental caused outages and led to poorer service. United's complaint rate improved to 2.14 in 2013.

United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said customer satisfaction has improved as the airline focused on enhancing service.

American, which merged with US Airways in December to form the world's biggest airline, stood out in terms of complaints about flight delays and cancellations, the study shows.   Continued...

Employees check in travelers at the American Airlines check in counters at Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 9, 2013. REUTERS/Mark Makela