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Airline Passengers Rank United Among Worst For Service, Southwest Best

A consumer watchdog analyzed five years of complaints to the Transportation Department.



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The U.S. Public Interest Research Group analyzed five years of airline passenger complaints to the U.S. Department of Transportation. It found Florida-based Spirit Airlines generated the most complaints by far. The runner-up for most of the five-year period was United Airlines.

Sara Smith is program director for the Texas Public Interest Research Group. She says complaints against United spiked in 2012, in the wake of its merger with Houston-based Continental.

“Consumers saw a lot of computer problems as they were trying to merge the two. Lots of lost flights, lots of lost baggage, and just a lot of complaints coming out of issues that really came from the merger. And since that’s settled a bit, complaints have fallen, but they still remain one of the most complained about.”

By contrast, Southwest Airlines generated the fewest number of grievances in each of the five years of the study — though Southwest did see the number of complaints against it jump in 2013.

Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew Schneider is the senior reporter for politics and government at Houston Public Media, NPR's affiliate station in Houston, Texas. In this capacity, he heads the station's coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments...

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