published Saturday, June 11th, 2011

Phillips: United tops list of worst airlines

by Ellen Phillips

Q: We’re planning our family vacation for August and need some information on airlines. I know they’re worse than ever in several regards, but are some moreso than others? — Vicki Vacationer

A: Dear Ms. Vacationer: You and I must be on the same wavelength. I’ve been researching airlines myself for a family member and discovered US News and World Reports’ release of the 2011 Airline Quality Rating report released April 4.

It shows the worst airlines and why they’re rated like this.

1. United Airlines has the dubious honor of being the worst major carrier, and customer service (or the lack of) is the main complaint.

Its baggage fees are the highest at $25 for the first bag, $35 for the second and $100 for the third checked bag. Overweight bags range from a hefty $100 to $200 per piece. Business Insider places United second on its “18 Worse Companies in America” list.

2. American Airlines claims the second slot for most complaints. As the fifth worst in consumer aggravation, be prepared to pay up to $150 for an oversized bag measuring 62-125 inches. Business Insider places AA as the seventh worst company in America.

3. Frontier Airlines places this “high,” not only because of general customer complaints, but most specifically because of mishandled baggage. (Its on-time arrival did improve somewhat from the previous year.)

4. Continental Airlines showed improvements in mishandled baggage and on-time performance; its denied boarding (I despise airlines’ overbooking policies!) and high prices for heavy luggage take the cake.

5. Delta Airlines demonstrated a huge improvement from the previous year. However, because of various factors, including its baggage fees for heavy or large bags, it rated No. 6 on the “Worse Companies” List. Frankly, the only reason Delta is No. 5 instead of No. 1 is its placement versus United’s in Business Insider’s “Worse Companies in America” list.

Please remember, though, a passenger can take a ride on any of these five or any other airline not mentioned and enjoy a wonderful or an odious ride, depending on the plane, departure, destination and so forth.

Snacks are still complimentary on some of these “worse” companies, and several not on the list continue to nickel-and-dime us to death. Regardless of the airline, both good and bad prevail.

Mea culpa! A vigilant reader from the carpet industry let me know my “expert” source was a tad misinformed.

So for updated info regarding olefin/polypropylene: This grade of carpet, while great for indoor-outdoor carpet, isn’t so good for high-traffic areas. It’s very crushable and, also, is more expensive than nylon. Thanks to Jim McAfee and Tom Freeland for setting me straight.

about Ellen Phillips...

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at under Local Business.

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