Plenty of things can make a flight unpleasant: rough skies, weather-related cancelations and delays, even tarantulas roaming the cabin mid-flight. But how an airline’s staff and crew handle these mishaps—and treats passengers—can turn an annoying (or creepy-crawly) situation into a complete nightmare.
Customer service is one of the few things airlines have total control over, but poorly trained or apathetic employees can tarnish a carrier’s reputation.
Every year, Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards survey asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences from across the globe—to cast their votes for the top hotels, islands, cities, spas, and more. Readers ranked airlines on a number of categories, including cabin comfort, food, value, and customer service. And when it came to the latter, some carriers failed to perform in 2016.
“I am not a complainer,” said T+L reader Beth McKieman. “But this was by far the worst flight experience I have ever [taken].” During her flight with Royal Air Maroc, Morocco’s national carrier, McKieman reported that a request for a tissue was met with “a glare and a shrug” from “a surly crew.”
And travelers flying with the domestic budget airline, Frontier, described a remarkable drop in customer service. “This airline is on a downward slide,” said one reader, while another added: “even their once great flight attendants have become robotic and mostly uncaring.”
It’s not just cranky gate agents and brusque flight attendants that account for bad customer service. Of Volaris, a Mexico-based low-cost airline, one reader postulated the mobile version of the website was specifically designed “to make you book by phone at [an] extra charge.” And don’t even get them started on the cabin comfort.
Of course, there are plenty of airlines out there that are treating travelers right—and the world’s worst airlines for customer service could learn a thing or two about hospitality.
No. 9 United Airlines, Domestic
No. 8 Air India, International
No. 7 Egyptair, International
No. 6 Volaris, International
No. 5 Royal Air Maroc, International
No. 4 easyJet, International
No. 3 Frontier Airlines, Domestic
No. 2 Allegiant, Domestic
No. 1 Spirit Airlines, Domestic
“We’ll never fly spirit again no matter what the rate,” said reader Amy Barwick of the low-cost carrier, “because you’ll end up paying the difference in further frustrations later.” Spirit continues to bottom out with T+L readers, who were routinely dismayed by the airline’s lack of customer service. “I know [flight attendants] are there for safety,” said another survey respondent, “but I’m not sure they would put passengers first [in] an emergency.” Many readers interacted with rude employees, and just as many said it’s impossible to speak with a customer service representative. Even on Twitter, “Spirit Autopilot” tries to deflect complaints with bot-generated responses.