Flights are getting increasingly uncomfortable as airlines cut back on on-board perks like food and shrink legroom to save money, according to a new study from AirHelp, a startup that aids passengers in applying for compensation after delayed, canceled, or overbooked flights released Monday.
Its new ranking took into account quality and service, on-time performance, claim processing, and how people discussed airlines on social media. The rankings analyzed data from December 22, 2016 through March 20, 2017 — concluding shortly before United Airlines was the subject of relentless social media backlash in early April following a high-profile incident involving a passenger being dragged from a full flight.
U.S. airlines didn’t make a big showing on the list, with United Airlines ticker coming out the highest at No. 29, followed by American Airlines UAL, -2.35% at No. 33 and Delta Air Lines DAL, -2.92% at No. 45. Past domestic rankings in the U.S. have shown Southwest LUV, -1.29% as the favorite, followed by Delta and American Airlines AAL, -2.27% JetBlue JBLU, -0.11% and Southwest have also since apparently benefited from United Airlines’ recent PR disasters, with more people considering purchasing from them instead. (These airlines were not immediately available for comment.)
However, AirHelp’s survey takes into account not just airlines’ approval rating, but also their performance. Here are the top 10 airlines:
The worst four airlines were Bulgaria Air, SmartWings of Czech Republic, Tunisair, and Monarch The Irish no-frills airline Ryanair RYAAY, +0.35% which has had some high-profile incidents with passengers behaving badly of late, came in fifth-to-last at No. 81. Brian Sumers, an airline industry reporter at travel website Skift was skeptical of the standings. in the U.S., fares are relatively low and most airlines offer in-flight entertainment than European airlines, he said. (These airlines were not immediately available for comment.)
“Frankly, it does not make sense that U.S. airlines couldn’t crack the top 25,” he said. “U.S. airline passengers love to complain, but they have it good compared to much of the rest of the world. They deserve to perform better in these rankings.”
Still, Americans are unhappy with airlines: Despite the year-over-year improvement in customer satisfaction, airlines ranked seventh-to-last out of 43 industries in the American Customer Satisfaction Index in 2016. However, despite growing passenger frustration, it is currently safer than ever to travel by air. This is due to better training for airline staff, collaboration between airlines and government entities, and the examination of past accidents to prevent future problems, a spokeswoman for airline trade organization Airlines for America said.