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America's meanest airlines; Two are ILM's major carriers

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By Hamooda Shami
US News & World Report

Simply put, flying can be a stressful activity.

A lot of the time it begins with the airports: dizzying parking garages, overpriced food and a series of long lines have a way of making even the most serene travelers a little bit agitated. And that's even before the airplane leaves the ground. So it's easy to see how poor service from an airline can put the finishing touches on a ruined day -- long check-in lines, flight delays, lost luggage, baggage fees and general rudeness have a way of doing that. Not to mention the scary food (at least it used to be free scary food).

Based on the Airline Quality Rating (AQR) Report, which covers 18 domestic carriers, here is a list of the airlines that could stand to do the most work on making their customers happy. The report's conclusions are based on surveys of airline industry experts, with positive and negative values assigned to different elements in airline quality. Several common complaint areas were factored in -- including on-time arrival, mishandled baggage, delays and involuntary denied boardings -- the scores of which were then calculated to produce an overall quality score. We also took a look at a number of other sources, including the American Customer Satisfaction Index and the Air Travel Consumer Reports by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Regional airlines are ranked separately because of their tendency to score lower.

Worst Major Airlines
5. US Airways
2009 AQR Score: -1.19

While US Airways improved five percent in passenger satisfaction according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, they were one of three airlines cited as having the rudest flight attendants and serving the worst food, in a survey conducted by SeatGuru last year. Additionally, US Airways received a below-average score in the J.D. Power 2010 North America Airline Satisfaction Study.

Domestic Baggage Fees:
1st Bag: $25
2nd Bag: $35 3rd Bag: $100
Overweight Bags: $50 Extra (51 - 70 lbs) $100 Extra (71 - 100 lbs)
Oversized Bags: $100 Extra (larger than 62")

4. American Airlines
2009 AQR Score: -1.25

American Airlines has an Airline Quality Rating (AQR) of -1.25 -- which isn't awful, but where its reputation takes the hardest hit is with its regional airline, American Eagle (more on it later).

This year AA has had frequent incidents of mishandled baggage with an average of 4.07 reports per 1,000 passengers, according to the Air Travel Consumer Reports (this is the worst rating among the major airlines in the study). SeatGuru's survey named American Airlines as one of the three airlines that have the rudest flight attendants and the worst food.

Domestic Baggage Fees:
1st Bag: $25
2nd Bag: $35
3rd Bag: $100
Overweight Bags: $50 (51 - 70 lbs) $100 (71 - 100 lbs)
Oversized Bags: $150 (larger than 62")

3. Alaska Airlines
2009 AQR Score: -1.39

Alaska Airlines has an Airline Quality Rating (AQR) of -1.39, which can be partially attributed to the airline's high number of mishandled baggage reports. According to Air Travel Consumer Reports, the airline averaged 3.98 incidents per 1,000 passengers last year. However, Alaska Airlines did a stellar job when it came to delays, with 88 percent of its flights having on-time arrivals (in the 12-month period ending August 2010).

Domestic Baggage Fees:
1st Bag: $20
2nd Bag: $20
3rd Bag: $20
Overweight Bags: $50 (51 - 100 lbs)
Oversized Bags: $50 (63 - 80") $75 (81 - 115")

2. United Airlines
2009 AQR Score: -1.43

Now that the merger with Continental Airlines is official, United can turn its attention to improving customer service. United received a score of "about average" in the J.D. Power 2010 North America Airline Satisfaction Study but it placed last in passenger satisfaction in the American Customer Satisfaction Index. According to the SeatGuru survey, United joins American Airlines and US Airways as one of the three worst airlines for meals and rude flight attendants. In addition, the Air Travel Consumer Reports places this airline second in consumer complaints (behind Delta), averaging 1.82 per 100,000 enplanements in 2010.

Domestic Baggage Fees:
1st Bag: $25
2nd Bag: $35
3rd Bag: $100
Overweight Bags: $100 (51 - 100 lbs)
Oversized Bags: $100 (larger than 62")

1. Delta
2009 AQR Score: -1.73

Delta had the worst AQR among major airlines with a -1.73, and a couple of its regional airlines did even worse (see Comair and Atlantic Southeast below). It also had the largest drop in passenger satisfaction in the American Customer Satisfaction Index. According to the Air Travel Consumer Reports, Delta was number one in delays for major airlines (78 percent of flights arriving on time in the 12-month period ending August 2010) and first in consumer complaints (averaging 2.23 per 100,000 enplanements in 2010). Also, make sure to note Delta's baggage fees below, as they can get quite painful for those hauling heavy and/or large cargo.

Domestic Baggage Fees:
1st Bag: $25 ($23 if checked online)
2nd Bag: $35 ($32 if checked online)
3rd Bag: $125
Overweight Bags: $90 (51 - 70 lbs) $175 (71 - 100 lbs)
Oversized Bags: $175 (larger than 63 - 80") $300 (larger than 81 - 115")

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hence

the reason I will not fly out of ILM unless it is paid for through work.

100$ for a surfboard on U.S.uck airlines each way
175 for a surfboard on Delta each way

I usually drive to Orlando or Miami for surftrips 2xyr.and still save avg 200$ on r/t. Raleigh and myrtle bch are great alternatives too but still kinda $$$. Do not know many people who surf that will fly out of ILM, and if you think there are not a lot of us who take surf trips...think again.

Bring us SouthWest or Jet Blue to ILM

We need Southwest

If Southwest airlines ever came to ILM, I would never fly again on Delta or USAir. They know they have you and they don't care what type of service they give you. If you have to change you travel plans they are very quick to charge you a $150 change fee plus the different in flight fee, but if they cancel a flight tough luck, we will get you there when we can. I had to stay an extra day one time to finish a job I was doing because USAir cancel my out bound flight and I lost a day traveling. When I changed my flight they tried to charge me the change fee.

Do I fly a lot? Yes, I do. I am Chairman Preferred on USAir and Gold on Delta.

Worst airlines

Whoever did this study got it right by placing U.S. Scare at the top of the list.
I flew them Oct. 7 from Philadelphia to Rome in coach (Flt. 1884).
There is no leg room, at times my knees were up against the seat in front of me, and I am 5' 8".
The fold-down trays were broken, they would not lay flat
I could not fit my small, soft-leather valise under the front seat
I could not fit my very small carryon in the overhead bid
The seat recliners were broken, the seats would not stay in the recline position
The meal was worse than a Lean Cuisine or any of the store-bought frozen meals
The flight attendants had absolutely no personality; as a matter of fact I don't think any said one word to me.
I was firmly convinced I was not going to fly coach on the way back to the States, so I bit the bullet and paid the $500 for an upgrade to first class. The service was luxurious as it should have been for an additional $500. And, I am glad I did because I picked up a bug the day before I left Italy and was miserable on the flight home. At least it was in comfort.
I wrote to U.S. Scare and complainted about the flight over. They sent me a $50 voucher for my next flight. There won't be a next flight on U.S. Scare.
jtischner