January 5

Are the Worst Airlines in the World in the USA?


worst airlines in the world

And I’m not speaking about safety issues here- I know that many small airlines in central Asia or Africa have a hit and miss record and hence are certainly among the worst airlines in the world regarding safety, but I’m speaking about airplane quality, and most important, service. To me, this is what makes one airline better than the other.

A couple of days ago I was on a Delta Airlines flight from Atlanta to Washington, and once again had the chance to witness rude and uncalled for behaviour by a flight attendant. As soon as we got in the plane we were already unsatisfied because having already selected seats when booking the flight we had to sit sepparately, something that was completely ignored and not only with us but with other families traveling aboard too. Liza was on the seat behind me, but on my right was a female who had her children and husband scattered somewhere in the front of the airplane. To my left was a lady who had her husband on the other side of the aisle.

The plane was to depart on time, all passengers were ready and we were beginning to move when passengers were requested to turn off all electronic devices including cell phones, lap tops and the rest. The lady on my left was using an ebook reader (kindle) and was not sure if she had to turn that off too, so she asked the first flight attendant that walked by. Her response was something like this, without even looking at her:

FA- “Sweetheart, does it have an on/off button? I bet it does. Which means it’s an electronic device, so you better turn that off immediately”.

Lady- “I have never been asked to turn it off in other airlines, are you sure?”


“I certainly am. So please don’t make me repeat myself and turn it off right now. I am only a flight attendant, these are not my rules, I am only here to spread the joy”.

And with that final remark she continued her stroll down the aisle.

Us passengers who had witnessed the episode stared at each other in disbelief, while the lady was left upset and mumbling what I assume were comments on what had just happenned. Right after this I remembered a similar episode Nomadic Matt once mentioned in his blog.

And thus comes the question: do US airlines have the worst service in the world? I have flown with Delta, US Airways, AA, Continental, SouthWest, Alaska Airlines, United and others, and frankly none of them has ever done anything that has pleasantly surprised me. Continental Airlines once lost my luggage and paid 400 USD five months later, only to find my suitcase a month after and shipping it over- broken. I of course claimed that too and got a new one. The total process took 6 months and probably around 50 phone calls. Delta has a poor service- it is not the first time I witness or have heard of an episode like the one I have described. US Airways usually has well priced trans-Atlantic flights: planes have seats with personal TVs and service is good enough- not outstanding- but luggage is limited to one 20 kg (free) suitcase per traveler in most international flights and there’s a fee for all national flights. The rest are very much the same I’d say.

Internationally I have flown with airlines that have a bad reputation such as Russia’s Aeroflot, Lao Airways in Laos or Tiger Airways in Singapore, yet the flights were cheaper and certainly not any worst than any in the USA. So tell me:

Which is or what country has the worst airlines in the world?
[photo Matt Hintsa @ flickr]

Do you think the US has the worst air service in the world, particularly when you consider prices, service and number of daily flights?


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  1. I never thought about it that way but you are totally right. Well Air Canada sucks but likely because it’s trying to be like it’s American counterparts whereas WestJet really reminds me of some Asian airlines.

    1. I flew with US Airways yesterday. They would not let Liza board the first airplane because they couldn’t find the second leg of the flight (outside the US), and we almost missed it. The second flight was 45 minutes late.

  2. “I cer­tainly am. So please don’t make me repeat myself and turn it off right now. I am only a flight atten­dant, these are not my rules, I am only here to spread the joy”.

    This is unbelievable, not only in US, but in any country of the world. I am surprised that the lady on your right didn’t say something “nice”, probably she was too shocked by that answer.

    1. Could very well be. The flight attendant certainly deserved some sort of warning…but unfortuntaely she got away with it.

  3. I think I would have flipped out with the condescending “sweetheart” thrown into those comments. It is absurd that we have to pay so much to fly and can be treated to badly.

  4. US airlines are terrible. I have flown Southwest a fair amount in the past few months and think they have the best service hands down in the States! But other than that, it’s a gamble.

  5. I haven’t flown enough airlines to say for sure, but it wouldn’t surprise me. I used to fly KLM everywhere and a while back it was considered much better than anything in the US.. So far I haven’t witnessed the rudeness you mention so much except from people behind the ticket counter — but even there the nice people out number the rude by far… guess I’ve been lucky! 🙂

  6. Ugh. Delta. I have only had one good Delta experience. United is the same. The problem isn’t with any specific airline though, I think it is with the people they hire. You get good eggs and you get bad. The only airline that has delivered consistently good customer service for me is Southwest.

    1. Hmm, several travelers have mentioned Southwest as a good airline. I have only flewn once with them, and it was nothing special. No snacks on a 2 hour flight and the rest was as expected. Perhaps it is better now?

  7. United is pretty mediocre, which is guess is a positive thing since there’s nothing about them that’s ever really annoyed me. They always have the cheapest flights which is why I usually stick with them!

  8. United is pretty mediocre, which I guess is a positive thing since there’s nothing about them that’s ever really annoyed me. They always have the cheapest flights which is why I usually stick with them!

  9. I can’t believe a flight attendant said that to a person asking a reasonable question. Especially considering most e-ink type readers look the same when turned off (hence e-ink).

    Though according to a Slate article on Kindle (http://www.slate.com/id/2178594/), you have to turn off the Kindle.

    We can thank deregulation and consumers comparing airlines solely by price for the level of service we’re receiving now in economy class. We can also thank political correctness. In countries such as South Korea, with Korean Airline, people envy the flight attendant job and they hire based on physical attractiveness, specifically young, female, college educated below the age of 27.
    (http://www.ehow.com/list_7451068_requirements-airline-stewardess-korean-air.html) I’m not saying I agree with the policy, but it’s different overseas.

    1. Thanks for the insightful comment Charles. I’m sure not many people know that the Kindle has to be off, though one might assume so because it is electronic after all(albeit simple). I flew Korean Air once and have to agree with you: the airline and service are great!

  10. I think it’s diificult to speak in terms of entire airlines without disregarding some of the quality staff who actually care about you. There are “bad” attendants in every airline, but I would tend to agree that the asian airlines have better service in general.

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