What’s the most hated airline in the world? We have a list.

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Three U.S. airlines top a new list of the most hated airlines in the world, underscoring how far passengers believe America’s airlines have slipped when it comes to customer service. The numbers come at a time when U.S.-based airlines are reaping record profits.

Spirit Airlines, the no-frills, Florida-based carrier, came in at number one, with a negative score of -0.15 score (a perfect “all-negative” score would have been a -1). It was closely followed by another discount airline, Frontier Airlines (-0.1) and American Airlines (-0.09), the lowest-scoring legacy carrier. U.S. airlines dominated the list, with five of the worst airlines based in the United States. (Also on the list were Delta Air Lines and low-cost carrier Allegiant.)

SriLankan Airlines -0.0385355625
Wizz Air -0.04191348
Jetstar Airways -0.04837713153
VivaAerobús -0.048718
Allegiant Air -0.05265861071
Cebu Pacific -0.05757308701
Delta Air Lines -0.06834567243
American Airlines -0.09705798271
Frontier Airlines -0.10395944
Spirit Airlines -0.1518241188

By contrast, no American carriers made the positive list, which was dominated by Korean Air (+0.57), Canadian charter airline Air North (+0.54) and German discount airline TUIfly (+0.53).

Korean Air 0.5749675667
Air North 0.546323
TUIfly 0.539321
TAP Portugal 0.5272396381
Air France 0.4974623656
Tiger Airways 0.4877619167
Monarch Airlines 0.485462461
Icelandair 0.4444314091
TAROM 0.4382005
Air New Zealand 0.426289452

The survey, conducted by Delray Beach, Fla.-based marketing agency Fractl on behalf of charter company Stratos Jets, analyzed 1.3 million tweets during the last holiday travel period for 70 world airlines. Fractl ran a sampling of the electronic conversations through a sentiment analysis algorithm to determine how positive or negative passengers felt about an airline.

Fractl says it wanted to test the overall responsiveness of airlines during the last Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season, which is considered to be the most stressful time to fly.

“Many fliers take to Twitter, whether to vent about, or praise, their experiences,” says Signe Nicklas, a spokeswoman for Fractl. “So how do airlines respond?”

Surprisingly, Fractl found that the Mexican low-fare carrier Volaris had the fastest response time (4 minutes, 12 seconds on average). The fastest American carrier, JetBlue Airways, reacted to customers within 5 minutes, 36 seconds.

Among some of the conclusions:

✓ Fliers care about their comfort, or lack thereof. The word “seat” showed up 5,286 times in the tweets.

✓ Air travelers can quickly get frustrated. Profanity appeared 14,490 times among the tweets.

✓ Still, fliers can be polite. There were 101,798 “thank yous” in the data.

Why are U.S. airlines so bad?

Although Fractl cautions not to jump to any conclusions from the results — the algorithm simply looked for words that carry a positive or negative connotation — it’s hard to not come away with the impression that domestic airlines are seriously challenged in their customer service departments. The highest-scoring U.S. airline was Sun Country, with a positive score of 0.23; among the major airlines Southwest Airlines came in highest at number 42, with a positive score of just 0.18.

The underperforming airlines, particularly Spirit, Frontier and American, have a long history of low customer-service rankings. Spirit, under the leadership of its previous CEO, Ben Baldanza, practically invited passengers to hate it. And they did. The latest American Customer Satisfaction Index ranks Spirit dead last, with a score of only 54 out of a possible 100. Frontier earned only four more points in the same survey.

The Fractl findings are likely to upset American air travelers, who probably don’t need a reminder of how awful customer service has become. But the results are particularly troubling in light of the record earnings the industry is reporting. American Airlines, for example, reported an astounding $6.3 billion profit last year, up 50 percent from 2014. Overall, the domestic airline industry is expected to rake in a record $19.2 billion in profits, thanks to lower fuel prices and reduced competition as the result of several mergers.

In other words, the currently super-profitable domestic airline industry isn’t worrying if customers hate it. With earnings like this, it doesn’t need to.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on our help forum.

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  • Peter Varhol

    I have flown Air France multiple times. They are pretty good, if they don’t cancel the flight, which happens far too often for my taste. I guess others don’t mind it.

  • Ward Chartier

    It could be interesting to read the mission statements, if they exist, of the top airlines versus the bottom airlines, then compare them. It would be interesting to compare the mission statements with the performance metrics used to pay the airlines’ top executives to see the degree with which they align. Finally, it would be interesting to assess the behaviors of airline employees who face the public and correlate those with the performance metrics of the executives.

    CEOs set or strongly influence the culture of a company. If a CEO has little interest in satisfying the needs of customers, then lower level employees will act in ways that reflect the CEOs’ imperatives. Looking back when I was living in the Dallas area, Bob Crandall, ex-CEO of AMR, could not be more different than Herb Kelleher, ex-CEO of Southwest Airlines. In different ways Crandall and Kelleher were effective, though. Likewise, even today, the customer service approaches of American Airlines are quite different from those of Southwest Airlines.

  • FQTVLR

    I have serious concerns about how the survey was conducted when United does not appear on the list of 10 worst and Air France appears on the 10 best.

  • Matt

    The study is at and includes this disclaimer, “This analysis should not be interpreted as an indication of the quality of any particular airline or their service”. No real details on the method used. Fun but fairly meaning advertising-research

  • Matt
  • flutiefan

    so “thank you for nothing!” would’ve counted as a positive?
    totally jacked “survey”.

  • MarkKelling

    Bet United missed by 0.001

    And did the survey also include tweets in languages other than English? Might be why Air France ranked higher if they only included English.

  • mbgaskins

    What’s the point. Just BS. “This analysis should not be interpreted as an indication of the quality of any particular airline or their service”.

    It could just as easily have been made up.

    Chris, why do you bother putting garbage like this on your site?

  • Bill___A

    Seems to be a strange survey. Although I realize certain airlines would make the most disliked list, there seems to be a lot missing.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    People tend to rave about the food (which is no surprise since that’s an expectation…) I personally like Lufthansa and try to fly them when possible even when using United FF program. Another airline(s) I’m surprised didn’t make the cut was Jetblue and Virgin. I love Jetblue (for now, they’re going down to the lowest common denominator like everyone else) and Virgin.

  • Flatlander

    I hated Allegiant after the first time I flew on them but when one wants to fly nonstop from the Tampa area of Florida to central Maine they are the only game in town. The seat on the way back was so uncomfortable it made a 26 hour drive seem almost preferable.

  • Flatlander

    Let me guess – most Air France cancellations are due to Air Crews going on strike?