I’ve been holding onto this piece of reader mail for nearly month because I thought it was best not to write this blog piece until the start of the New Year. But here we are, on January 1, 2011 … so I guess its safe to answer this question now.
This reader mail comes from Lisa Juarez in San Francisco. Lisa’s email reads “There have been so many stories in 2010 revolving around bad airlines, who would you say takes the title of worst airline of the year for 2010?”
Well Lisa … this question isn’t even a toss up. Usually my first instinct is to say Ireland’s Ryanair, but Ryanair hasn’t actually implemented any new horrific policies in 2010. Sure Ryanair has been discussing pay lavatories for a while and Ryanair’s CEO has been likened to the Satan at times, but none of this adds up to Ryanair being the worst airline of the year.
I have heard some people say Japan Airlines (JAL) should be the worst airline of the year, however while JAL filed one of the largest bankruptcies in Japanese history this year, slashed its work force, sold off its cargo unit and is phasing out the Boeing 747 … having operated the 747 since the aircraft first became available 40 years ago … Japan Airlines is still loved my passengers. For me, passengers having loyalty for their airline , the airline still maintaining a high standard of customer service and the constant praising the airline’s service automatically takes JAL off this list.
… but for me, in my opinion, one airline stands out among all airlines around the world as the worst airline of the world for 2010.
The Worst Airline Of The Year for 2010 is … drum roll please … Spirit Airlines.
Spirit Airlines embodies the ‘anti-passenger’ attitude, and it is apparent from the CEO down to front line gate agent. I can point to five major events in 2010 that place Spirit Airlines at the top of my list.
In April of 2010 Spirit Airlines beat Ryanair to the punch becoming the first airline to charge passengers for carry-on baggage. As part of Spirit Airlines’ persona as the ‘ultra low cost carrier’ in the United State the airline’s CEO Ben Baldanza announced that passengers didn’t need to travel with bags, thus the airline would begin charging for carry-on bags.
Yes, Spirit Airlines will allow a small bag, measuring no more than 16″x14″x12″ on board with no fee, provided it is placed under the seat in front of you.
Later in April of 2010 Spirit Airlines took center stage again, this time stealing its idea directly from Ryanair’s playbook by announcing that they were installing “pre-reclined seats.” Pre-reclined seats is the nice way of saying that the new seats being fitted into Spirit Airlines’ fleet do not recline.
Along with Spirit Airlines installing ‘pre-reclined’ seats, the new configuration of seat layout allows for only 28 inches of seat pitch. To put this in perspective … the seat pitch on board Ryanair’s aircraft is 30 inches, and the seat pitch on the ‘cramped’ Canadair Regional Jets flown by United Airlines, US Airways and Delta Air Lines is 31“.
In June Spirit Airlines’ pilots went on strike due to total compensation issues regarding their pay and benefits. A month before the pilots went on strike, as Spirit Airlines and the Air Line Pilots Association negotiated a new contract, the airline sent a notice to its non-pilot employees that should the pilots go on strike stating “the first day that ALPA goes out on strike could possibly be the last day of employment with Spirit.”
The strike occurred, a new contract was agreed upon and Spirit Airlines kept flying … and once again the airline found itself in the spot light when it chose to use references to BP Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in its ad campaign to lure travelers down to beach destinations. Campaign slogans like “Check Out The Oil On Our Beaches” with images of oiled scantily clad women on the beach.
There are other less tangible reasons to detest Spirit Airlines and why the airline tops my list as the Worst Airlines Of The Year for 2010 … but I think these four actions by Spirit Airlines in 2010 should speak for themselves.