Spirit Airlines is the Worst (and Data Backs it Up)

Posted in Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, Domestic US, Frontier Airlines, In the Air, JetBlue, Southwest, United

I’m not a Spirit flyer. Heck, I barely show spirit in my real life, much less my flying life. In fact, I’ve only taken one round-trip flight on Spirit and it was enough to get me to vow never to take Spirit ever again. While they may sell you on their “no-frills means low costs” ethos, I’d prefer to fly an airline that doesn’t treat me like cargo. So would other people.

That’s why Spirit Airlines has landed at the very bottom of the American Consumer Satisfaction Index with a score of 54 out of 100. That’s an F in any classroom in the world. Ouch.

The ACSI pulls data from interviews with roughly 70,000 customers every year and analyzes customer satisfaction for over 300 companies across 43 industries and 10 economic sectors. One of those industries is the airline industry.

While the results of the ACSI follow fairly closely with what I would predict in terms of airline customer satisfaction, there were some surprises on the 2015 report. United, one of the biggest carriers in the US, did terribly rating only slightly higher than Spirit and Frontier. Allegiant, another low-cost carrier and one not known for their frills, actually scored better than United. Not so friendly skies, huh, United?

JetBlue took the top spot, as they have in every year that they’ve been ranked (since 2012), but I was surprised to see Alaska at #3. I mean, sure, they’ve got pancake robots in their lounges, but that’s apparently just a small piece of how they’re pleasing their customers.

In terms of other legacy carriers, American and Delta seemed to be locked up tightly in the middle. Some years, American winds up on top, other years it’s Delta. For the past two years, though, Delta’s been up by five points each year. I wonder what’s causing that disparity. Why did Delta start pleasing its customers more while American has backslid? I’d love to know the answer.

Are there any other results that surprised you? Take a look below. Here’s the full chart of results from the ACSI:

ACSI airlines

Chart via the American Consumer Satisfaction Index



  1. The data suggest that Spirit is a horrible choice for ANY trip; I’ve never flown them and I won’t.
    That said, let’s also get over the idea that ANY long haul airplane is really a Grand Eatery in the sky: a 35k feet and 600 MPH, even waaay up there in “F,” is semi-decent food really worth $1000 – $2000 *per meal*? Ha! Been there a few times and yes, the other perks can be comforting and pleasant – make no mistake. But, are they really worth those serious bucks? We also note that most airlines are eliminating genuine “F” class, probably because the majority of users are non-rev points flyers.
    If one wants the perks and slightly better food – and is willing to pay, IMO, the best option is to shop and shop more for good “J” (business) fares. I am often surprised that if one shops with care and is date-flexible, good service, fairly good food food and other details can be had in business.
    My general rule is that for flight times of 3 hours, I look for front-end bargains, adjust schedules when I can and will often pay a fair bit more.
    Then there is the carrier choice: international of U.S. Flag for international flights. Sorry U.S. legacy folks, but you are not even close to being in the running. I may avoid some foreign flags over safety concerns, but the foreign ‘soft product’ is **always** the winner.
    These are not whimsical dreams, but based on personal experience. Sorry Legacy Folks, but you are not even in the same league. -C.

    • You make a great point about the massive price tag being worth over $1000, Cook. That said, you’re paying that money for more than just a meal. If the base fare in economy is $400, then it’s $600 for all the privileges of F, from multi-course meals to full-recline seats to everything else. Will those perks add up to $600? Probably not. As you say, though, most flyers are non-revenue passengers or — also very likely — flying on someone else’s dime. Spirit basically says “you’re all cattle to us” and that’s why they’re ranked where they are. I think the real question is: are you willing to be treated like that just to take advantage of Spirit’s low prices? I’m not.

      As for the legacy carriers, you’re spot on. International wins every time.

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