Broward-Based Spirit Airlines Is the Most Complained About Air Carrier, Study Finds
Extra bag? Hand over the credit card. In-flight soda? Fork it over again. On time? Ha. Right. Need to use the bathroom in flight? Gimme that card again.
Ladies and gentleman, welcome to Spirit Airlines.
If you've booked a flight on the fast-growing discount airliner in the past few years, no doubt you've run into Spirit's no-frills, eff-the-customer, you-need-us-we-don't-need-you approach to service. And sure, the Miramar-based air carrier may actually not be charging for bathroom time (yet), but the general idea is that it offers air travel stripped of nearly all amenities. It's pay to play.
And as such, according to a recent report, Spirit has racked up the most complaints of any U.S. plane chain over the past five years.
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The report, titled "The Unfriendly Skies: Five Years of Airline Passenger Complaints to the DOT," was written by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, a nonprofit that studies consumer issues.
Spirit Airlines was the most complained about carrier over the past five years -- by a long shot. According to the report, more complaints per 100,000 customers are filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation's Aviation Consumer Protection Division about Spirit than the competition.
"It was nearly three times as likely to generate complaints as the second-place airline each year," the report reads. "As the airline has grown in the past several years, complaints against the airline have skyrocketed."
In fact, Spirit led the pack in complaints by such a large margin that researchers removed the airline from the study in order to fully flesh out the performances of the other 12 carriers in consideration.
American, United, and Frontier were other airlines topping the list. The least complained about carrier was Southwest, which was ranked the best for each of the five years studied.
What are fliers complaining about? According to the study, flight problems top the list, followed closely by baggage, boarding, and customer service issues.
from "The Unfriendly Skies: Five Years of Airline Passenger Complaints to the DOT."
Spirit's bad rap with riders has landed it in some trouble. The government has fined the company $565,000 since 2008 for violating consumer protection laws. But playing low-ball and pissing off consumers is just what Spirit does -- and it makes money.
According to a Wall Street Journal article from last February, the company recently reported $43.2 million in profits, a significant jump from the $19.6 million posted the previous year.
And as long as the company keeps churning out those figures, there doesn't seem to be much of a demand for change, especially among the company's brass.
"We're the Walmart or the McDonald's -- not the Nordstrom's -- of the airline industry," Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza told USA Today in 2009. "No one walks into McDonald's and gets disappointed when they don't see filet mignon on the menu."
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