Aerospace & Defense

Spirit Disputes Worst Airline Rating

A recent study of the U.S. airlines industry reviewed and analyzed customer complaints against the major U.S. carriers for the five-year period from 2009 to 2013. The study concluded that passengers were most likely to complain about Spirit Airlines Inc. (NASDAQ: SAVE).

According to the study, which was conducted by U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Spirit generated three-times more complaints per 100,000 passengers than any other U.S. airlines. Following our report, Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza emailed us with his comments, prefaced with this statement:

[W]e know that the #1 thing that makes our customers happy is getting where they want to go for less.

Saying that there is always “more to the story,” Baldanza notes that the absolute number of complaints to the U.S. Department of Transportation is “very small” for all airlines, including Spirit. The industry average is one or two complaints for every 100,000 customers. Spirit received eight complaints per 100,000 passengers, and Baldanza says the number has dropped to five per 100,000 in recent months.

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Baldanza admits that creature comforts like more legroom, Wi-Fi and video screens have been traded for lower fares, a trade-off he says the vast majority of Spirit customers like. And he says, Spirit will not add costs to accommodate a few customers “just to reduce the complaints.”

The Transportation Department’s February 2014 report on customer complaints shows a total of 864 complaints against all U.S. airlines. Spirit tallied 50 of those, or about 5.7%. That is the sixth-highest total for any airlines, behind United, American, US Airways, Delta and Allegiant.

Spirit’s share price was down about 0.8% Thursday morning, at $55.99 in a 52-week range of $25.33 to $63.89.

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