Extra fees, oversold tickets, flight delays and cancellations helped to make Spirit Airlines the most complained about airline in the U.S., according to a report this week.
Spirit received the most complaints per passenger last year, the U.S. PIRG Education Fund found.
The group examined complaints made to the Department of Transportation about major U.S. airlines.
Passengers of Spirit were three times as likely, in 2013, to lodge a complaint than those flying on Frontier Airlines, which received the second largest number of complaints per passenger. United Airlines and American Airlines took the third and fourth spots.
Spirit’s fees have been a source of frustration for fliers, said Paul Hudson, president of Flyersrights.org.
Spirit says it is able to offer discounted fares because it lets passengers choose whether or not they want to buy meals or pay to check in their luggage.
“Many of the DoT complaints are driven by customers not fully understanding that we offer unbundled fares that let them control how much they spend,” said Maggie Espin-Christina, a spokeswoman for the airline.
Southwest had the best record, with the smallest number of complaints per passenger, PIRG said. It is also the only major carrier to allow passengers to check two bags for free.
Throughout the airline industry, however, passenger dissatisfaction is on the rise, PIRG found. Among the top complaints: flight delays and cancellations, overbooking, lost baggage, customer service, and mishaps with reservations and ticketing.
While still prevalent, complaints about lost luggage and baggage handling are starting to decrease. PIRG attributed the decline to rising fees, which have prompted many travelers to try and avoid checking in their bags altogether.
The fastest growing complaint category was flight delays and cancellations. On-time performance fell throughout the industry last year, which could explain the uptick, PIRG said.
“Consumers are incredibly frustrated,” said Laura Murray, a consumer associate for U.S. PIRG. “Flying isn’t fun.”