Survey ranks United as worst domestic airline

Virgin America had the highest ranking in the annual report, which takes stock of customer complaints, mishandled baggage and on-time arrival.

By Kim Peterson Apr 9, 2013 5:02PM
Image: Airport check-in (© Digital Vision/Getty Images/Getty Images)A new industry survey found that people are starting to like airlines again. But they still really, really hate United Airlines (UAL).

The annual Airline Quality Rating report, out this week, shows that airlines are doing a pretty good job keeping customers happy, caring for baggage and arriving on time. In fact, the industry got its second-highest quality rating in 23 years, UPI reports.

Not every airline is flying high, however. The survey handed United the title of worst domestic carrier after United flubbed every one of its categories, falling in the ratings for mishandled baggage, customer complaints and on-time arrival.

At the other end of the spectrum is Virgin America, which won kudos across the board for its performance in the various categories.

The report said that American Eagle had the largest improvement in overall score from 2011 to 2012, while United and SkyWest had the largest declines.The report is compiled by professors at Purdue University and Wichita State University.

Here's how the report ranked the airlines, from best to worst:

1. Virgin America

2. JetBlue (JBLU)

3. AirTran

4. Delta (DAL)

5. Hawaiian

6. Alaska Air (ALK)

7. Frontier

8. Southwest (LUV)

9. US Airways (LCC)

10. American

11. American Eagle

12. SkyWest

13. ExpressJet

14. United

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Apr 9, 2013 8:02PM
I knew it before I clicked on the link.  THE worst for a long time, starting around the time of employee ownership, when their planes were painted with two different livery schemes for years on end, like they couldn't afford to finish all of them. 

Surly and crotchety flight attendants from practically the Wright Bros era, dirty airplanes, bad in-flight service, etc.  The reasons go on and on.

To be named the worst behind the other laggards on the list is really an accomplishment.  Congrats, Untied Airlines!

Apr 9, 2013 7:58PM
I agree with the upshot of the survey. I have flown United for years and have seen the airline suffer from one cocky CEO to another inept but cocky CEO. When you are first seated in the cabin you are subjected to a narcisistic video of United's CEO "suit" rabbiting on and on about what "they" are doing to improve the airline. It's nonstop "we" this and "we" that. Basically, the plural version of "I" this and "I" that. Where do they find these egos who shoot off their mouths and eventually run the airline further down. This has been going on since even before United thought it a good idea to buy Hertz Rent-a-Car and Westin Hotels. My God people, slap your unions and your "operated by(s)" into line, shut your mouths and actually provide safety, good service and a dependable schedule. Geez and enough already.
Apr 9, 2013 8:17PM
United is awful. I have adult kids living overseas and use miles, whenver possible, to visit them. United is so terrible compared to Lufthansa, Air Canada or other airlines. The flight attendants are will avoid eye contact or actual human contact. I fly a lot., United is the worst.
Apr 9, 2013 10:33PM

Recently flew United to Hawaii. Wife, 2 kids and myself. On every flight (4 total) seating assignments were changed after our online check-in so that the four of us were seperated. According to United, my kids, 10 and 7, were supposed to sit apart from their parents. When questioned about it at the gate, the agents offered no help, so when we got on board the attendents had to ask other passengers to move so we could have 1 parent with one child. My wife and I didn't sit together on any of the flights.

On the flight back from Maui the same thing happened to a family with a 2 year old daughter - she was supposed to sit by herself, away from mom and dad on a 6 hour flight back to the mainland.

Here's the most absurd thing, however. Upon arriving at SFO we discovered there was another flight leaving for Denver 90 minutes before the flight we were booked on. We asked the gate agent if there was room available on the earlier flight, we were told there was plenty, and when we asked if we could change our flight, we were told it would be $100.00 for each seat!!! We declined and made it clear to the agent that this was a "stupid" policy. I thought the idea was to fill the seats.

So, 90 minutes later, boarding our flight to Denver, United was turning away passengers on stand-by because there wasn't enough seating. As I said - stupid policy. Hey United - your attempt to bend me over and suck more money from my wallet actually cost your airline. Morons.

I will never give United the satisfaction of having me as a paying customer again.

Apr 9, 2013 10:34PM

I had my worst flight experience EVER years ago with Virgin Atlantic out of the 100+ flights I've taken in my life. Their flight landed late so I missed my connection, they lost my luggage in the lost luggage room (ironic, isn't it), etc. I wrote a letter to corporate headquarters voicing my displeasure and they basically called me a liar (they said the flight arrived on time which is kind of funny since I even remembered the pilot announcing that we would be arriving late) and told me in pleasant corporate terms to go pound sand. If only they  had apologized I would have been fine with that (haven't there been studies done on how just apologizing actually pays off financially?) but their response really pissed me off so I wrote my Congressman and the various government agencies regulating airlines with my tale of woe and waited. My Congressman responded and said they were looking into it and not too long after I got a check in the mail from Virgin Atlantic refunding my ticket but still no apology.


This round: Airlines -1, Average Joe +1

Apr 10, 2013 1:22AM
That's too bad.  I flew United lots some years and always liked their services.  The last time I flew was in 2000 due to my sister's imminent death when she was in the ICU several states away.  The airline accommodated 7 of my family members and myself on the same flight seated very close to each other (we had 3 children included) at a steep discount, with free beverages and liquor round-trip.  At a stopover where we did not have to change planes, the crew let our children visit the cockpit.  All in all, it was a wonderful experience in a very dark dismal period in our lives.  
Apr 9, 2013 11:16PM



WWWWAAAAAA - What about ME!


Apr 9, 2013 10:19PM
And now they offer the sardine section toward the back of the plane where there is less leg room.  Aisle seats are no longer great when you get hit with service carts and people going by.  Even at a normal weight, you have to sit like an "L" , feet right in front of you, and shoulders tucked in.  Pretty soon, they'll have the standing rows where people don't sit, they just are suspended by bungie cords.  Not happy I have to fly United to Hawaii next month.  I upgraded because I have bad knees and could not manage the sardine section.  United was the first plane I flew in when I was 9 years old.  Boy, have things gone down hill since then, starting with TSA


I really disagree with the ratings for UNited Airlines by you evaluators.  I have flown with United for the last 22 years or so and not once have I had a problem with their food, service or flights.  There are many positive things to measure this airlines by without the media critics poor anaysis of the performance of this Company, UA!


I have found that United has some very good operational methods that appeal to me each time I fly. 

I have traveled many places with United, both safely and on time.  So I must say the employees are one of the best groups of people of any airline.  Well-trained and efficient. 


Whoever did this survey needs to do a better job of research on this airline.



John Earl Brammer


Apr 9, 2013 10:59PM
I flew UNITED in Dec and it was pretty uneventful aside from the staff being fairly rude and not very helpful. I had a connecting flight in Chicago after leaving Portland, ME late, so my connection was boarding as I arrived. You would have thought since the flight was delayed that someone would be there at the gate to help people get to there connecting flights....riiiiight. Then when I finally boarded my next flight, after I had to run from one end of O'Hare to the other. I found my seat, got situated, then headed to the restroom as soon as everyone had been seated, (we were delayed a bit anyway), a flight attendant was standing just beyond the bathrooms and in a not so friendly tone he asked, "where are you headed?", ( where else would I be headed?), when I politely said, "the restroom", his response was a rude, "make it quick". NO..... I think I would just love to spend some time in a restroom the size of a phone booth....A**HOLE 
Apr 9, 2013 10:06PM
I hate this airline! they changed my layover from 1hr to 5 hrs.

One more thing to say is that their pilots are the very best- trained in the world of flying in the last


thirty years.  I have no doubts or fears for safety when flying with United Airlines.

Thank you!


John Earl Brammer


Apr 9, 2013 11:38PM

I'm sorry and maybe "OLD" but PAN -AM (my first flight from California to Hawaii was my first memory of flying and for a child they did a lot to make memorable experiences.) I again got to fly PAN-AM from JFK (New York) to Athens, Greece. Home sick but our Government sent me there. One more time I got to fly Pan-AM from Athens, Greece back to JFK. That Airline soon was no longer. They have tried a couple of times to come back out but it won't happen. Airlines are buying Airlines. I haven't flown (last carrier was Southwest Airlines) since 1997. Had a bad experience. Brought it to the attention of the company (back in those days you wrote a letter.) No response. So I vowed back in 1997 NEVER TO FLY AGAIN and I haven't. I tell people to take a bus or take a train and SEE AMERICA. Plan for the travel and have fun but if you need to get home in an emergency, Fly but get ready for inconviences for the convient travel.




I have flown on many different airlines in addition to United.   Singapore, JAL, ANA, etc.  I just prefer the good service and promptness that United has provided me.  I have been to 42 different countries, so I want to say that there are good and bad examples.  Your evaluation of United is way off course....period!

Thanks for the reply.



Apr 10, 2013 10:54AM

American Eagle Sucks.  Their Restrooms do not work


Apr 10, 2013 1:37AM
I cannot believe that the wonderful and great Southwest or "Southworst" is at number 8. That just shows you how fluid these stats are. Well over the course of the next 5 years all airlines will be hated once the frequent flyer programs disappear. That will be happening you use the miles / points while you still can because soon they will be like President Obama...Completely worthless.
Apr 9, 2013 7:31PM
We need to get off fossil fuels for a lot of reasons and switching to electric car is a good way to get that done.   But at the same time the electric cars we build need to accommodate our needs.   So far Tesla hasn't done that and we have given them a lot of money to get it done.   So like her or not, Palin's got a point.  That said, we need to develop electric cars that will get us from A to B, and B has to be more than a couple of hundred miles.  And discharging the battery can't make the car kaput. So maybe we should loan our development money to some other company and get that done.   How about something novel like lending it to an existing auto manufacturer.  Maybe Ford.  They've done a remarkable job of turning their company around.  Maybe they could do the same for Tesla.
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