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Spirit Airlines sucks hardest in new complaints survey, but Frontier's gaining fast

We recently told you about the annual Airline Quality Rating study, in which Frontier Airlines got hammered, particularly in the area of customer complaints.

Turns out, though, that another carrier -- Spirit Airlines, which wasn't included in the AQR report -- has generated more gripes than Frontier according to "The Unfriendly Skies," a new report from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund. But Frontier is gaining ground at an unflattering clip. See details, graphics and the complete report below.

Spirit is certainly a familiar airline to Denver travelers, and in January, it hyped travel to the city by alluding to the legalization of marijuana. A promotion touted "fares so low they're barely legal in some states."

The complete item reads:

The 'No Smoking' Sign is Off (in Colorado)

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If you want to make a beeline for Colorado right now, we don't blame you -- but we're up to take you to plenty of chill destinations. Book a flight only, flight + hotel, flight + car or flight + hotel + car for travel from January 11, 2014 through March 12, 2014 (offer not valid for travel on Sundays) and you'll save $10 off* the flight portion of your trip! Simply enter 10OFF (all caps, no spaces) in the Promotion Code box on the home page when booking to get these savings. Book today...and be sure to pack some munchies. All flights must be booked by 11:59pm on January 6, 2014 and a 7-day advance purchase is required.

A photo from the Spirit Airlines Facebook page.
A photo from the Spirit Airlines Facebook page.

We doubt "The Unfriendly Skies" has left the folks at Spirit feeling mellow, however. As you can see by this graphic showing complaints by airline over a five year period, from 2009 to 2013, finds Spirit's line way above every other carrier's:

Spirit Airlines sucks hardest in new complaints survey, but Frontier's gaining fast

The complete report is below, but here's the damning summary of Spirit's performance:

Spirit Airlines, which markets itself as a low-cost, no-frills airline, generated the most complaints per 100,000 passengers every single year in the study, by a large margin. It was nearly three times as likely to generate complaints as the second place airline each year. As the airline has grown in the past every years, complaints against the airline have skyrocketed.

Since 2008, the DOT has hit Spirit with five different fines totaling $565,000 for violating various consumer protection laws concerning over-sales, baggage, and multiple cases of deceptive advertising.

In fact, Spirit's ranking on complaints is so out of proportion to the others that a second graphic actually excludes it. In the latter, you can see that Frontier, represented by the orange line, was in range of the other airlines until 2012, at which point complaints spiked, pushing the carrier above all its competitors other than Spirit:

Spirit Airlines sucks hardest in new complaints survey, but Frontier's gaining fast

How does the study illustrate Frontier's fall from grace?

Continue to read more about airlines and customer complaints, including additional graphics and the complete study.

Another pair of graphics tell the tale. In this one, representing 2012, Frontier places seventh in terms of customer complaints....

Spirit Airlines sucks hardest in new complaints survey, but Frontier's gaining fast

...but by 2013, it had shot up to second:

Spirit Airlines sucks hardest in new complaints survey, but Frontier's gaining fast

The Frontier blurb reads like so:

Frontier Airlines has grown considerably in the last several years, and its complaint volume has grown as well. Frontier saw a large jump in 2013, becoming the most complained-about airline in the group besides Spirit Airlines.

Read more in the complete report below.

The Unfriendly Skies

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Business archive circa April 7: "Frontier gets hammered in latest airline quality study, finishes last in customer complaints."


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