Ten Worst Airlines- 2012 [Updated]

I am often asked which airlines are best avoided.  Having flown for over 3040 hours (0ver 18 weeks of my life!) with 83 airlines, there are some clear differences between the best and the worst! I rate each flight I take for every factor from Booking to Check in to deplaning. and keep a tally of my rating using Flightmemory.com.  The scores averaged out give me the ranking of flights, airlines and airports. I have placed my score for each airline next to the airline name.

Here is my list for of the 2012 worst airlines, starting from the worst at number 1:

1. Ryanair -19%

Ireland: 1984. Fleet:  305 Destinations: 164 Employees: 8,388.  Skytrax Rating: 2 star airline. Skytrax Passenger Rating: 35%

Every year I hope Ryanair will get a little better. Not a chance in 2012. Grumpy crews, crowded planes, non-transparent fares, and a “you are on your own if we mess up” attitude. Don’t take my word for it: Ryanair was recently voted Europe’s least popular short-haul airline by the readers of the British consumer publication  My favourite reason not to like them: Covalence rates them as one of the most unethical companies in the world. Which?. I get the impression from the CEO down that passengers are to be treated like sheep being herded from one out of the way airport to another.


2.Air Zimbabwe – 20%

Zimbabwe: 1967 Fleet:  9? Destinations: 9?  Employees: 1,234? Skytrax Rating: Star Ranking suspended   Skytrax Passenger Rating: 28%

For most of the year, they were grounded. They now have a new plane and lots of legroom (LOL) Staff vary from friendly to grumpy but are not overly motivated (no pay for months may impact this). My two best memories were two cockroaches climbing the wall of the plane on the Harare bound flight as we took off and the other was the Flight Attendant recommending us not to fly with AirZim again!


3. Spirit Air

USA: 1980 Fleet:  45 Destinations: 57  Employees: 2,580 Skytrax Rating: 3 star airline.  Skytrax Passenger Rating: 20%

Upfront,  I never actually got to fly  Spirit in 2012, as the only flight I was to have had with them was cancelled. The cancellation occurred, as I arrived at the airport. I switched to another carrier rather than wait 24 hours for the alternative flight.  However, an airline that charges up to one hundred dollars for a carry on bag has some serious issues. As one customer says: Truly the worst domestic airline experience I’ve ever had.


4. Tiger Airways – 27%

Singapore: 2004 Fleet:  19 Destinations: 28  Employees: 2,580 Skytrax Rating: 3 star airline.  Skytrax Passenger Rating: 37%

Australia: 2007.  Fleet:  11 Destinations: 8

Tiger operates as Tiger Airways Australia and Tiger Airways Singapore. I hate Tiger. Period. Now that Virgin have taken over Tiger Australia, it will be interesting to see what changes in Australia.


5. Air China -28%

China: 1988  Fleet:  293 Destinations: 185  Employees: 24,474 Skytrax Rating: 4 star airline. Skytrax Passenger Rating: 50%

Not to be confused with China Airlines. Air China is mainland China based and China Airlines is Taiwanese. Skytrax made Air China  four star in 2011. I think the carrier missed the memo- old planes, old cabins, old seats, old food.  Skytrax  passenger forums are full of passengers saying “not recommended”. Where Air China really excel is when something goes wrong: you are on your own.


6. China Eastern -29%

China: 1988  Fleet:  302 Destinations: 110  Employees: 60, 000 Skytrax Rating: 3 star airline. Skytrax Passenger Rating: 50%

Every time, I look at airfare comparison sites, China Eastern offers flights at prices way, way below other carriers. Before you are  tempted to book, consider my favourite quote about this airline from a customer:  “China Eastern still don’t understand customer service“. I agree. Inconsistent meals, bland food, limited entertainment and very delayed flights will make you regret every cent you saved


7. Alitalia -30%

Italy: 19 Sep 1946 then  13 Jan 2009 Fleet:  112 Destinations: 86  Employees: ?  Skytrax Rating: 3 star airline. Skytrax Passenger Rating: 45%

Italy is home to some of the chicest things on the planet- just do not expect much chic on an Alitalia plane. Italians can be some of the warmest, most fun and most hospitable people on the planet- you just won’t find them amongst the demoralised Alitalia staff. Universally rude staff from reservations to check-in to on board. Italian cuisine is some of the most delicious on the planet – just don’t expect  it to be served to you on an Alitalia plane. Lavatories never seem to be cleaned mid flight and are some of the most putrid aloft


8. United Airlines -58%

USA: 30 June, 1927 Fleet:  706 Destinations: 378  Employees: 85,000  Skytrax Rating: 3 star airline. Skytrax Passenger Rating: 45%

The merger with Continental has brought a few improvements but flying with United is rarely a pleasurable experience.  I wonder sometimes if I delight in hating United? I did give them 5 out of 5 for an Indianapolis to Newark flight this year. JD Power in a June 2013, survey claimed that United were the second worst airline in North America. They gave the worst to USAir (who I for the first time have moved out of my top ten worst airlines!

9. American Airlines- 60%

USA: 1930 Fleet:  605 Destinations: 260  Employees: 78,000  Skytrax Rating: 3 star airline. Skytrax Passenger Rating: 36%

More demoralised staff sharing their unhappy attitude with their unhappy passengers. Combine that with uncomfortable seats, old planes and disappointing food. Having said that, of the 29 hours spent flying American this year (one day of my year effectively inside their aircraft), one hour of it (LAX to SFO) I actually described as a pleasant experience giving them 4 out of 5 for it!). JD Power nominated them as the third worst of North America’s Traditional carriers.


10. Air Asia – 63%

Malaysia: 2000. Fleet:  101 Destinations: 88  Employees: 8,000  Skytrax Rating: 3 star airline. Skytrax Passenger Rating: 76%

My business partner swears by Air Asia but I  don’t  like them.  The airline IS cheap. It operates with one of the world’s lowest unit costs. What are you prepared to give up to save on money?   Unless you fly Premium, there is nothing on board for you. Disabled people claim the airline does nothing to assist them. There is also a difference between their “Air Asia X” and “Air Asia” product with X being better. Frankly, I have to be honest, I don’t feel safe aboard them.  Their on time performance is at 86% on time for arrivals. Still someone, keeps voting for them as world’s best low cost carrierahead of the brilliant Virgin America.


10. Jetstar-63%

Australia: 2003. Fleet:  68 Destinations: 35 Employees: 7,000  Skytrax Rating: 3 star airline. Skytrax Passenger Rating: 55%

Australia’s favourite low cost airline -but not mine. Their Premium Product makes their experience much more bearable but I do all I can to avoid Jetstar.  The airline  often cancels and delays flights -without explanation. Airstats says only 72% of their flight arrivals are on time.  On board catering is not very exciting and entertainment consists of DVD  players that you can rent. The job of the cabin crew is to sell you all of the things that airlines used to give you for free:  snacks, drinks and blankets. The airline is so unpopular with some that it has a Don’t  fly Jetstar webpage dedicated to it.


 I am not including North Korea’s one star airline Air Koryo on this list. The only time you will encounter them is if you fly into that state and I have yet to have that experience!. I would also not be in a hurry to fly Garuda Indonesian, most African carriers, Saudi Arabian,  Egyptair or Aeroflot but have not tried them either.
My Top Ten airlines coming Saturday!

Related Posts

Air Koryo Goes Online

Air Zim Goes Monty Python

Trip Report: United LAX-ROC

Trip Report: American- LAX to SFO


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  1. Where is AeroSvit? Its totally worse than most of these as I discovered on my JFK-KBP-TLV trip this year…

    Otherwise, flown on 3 of 10

  2. It seems we have a different opinion on Alitalia staff.
    When I flew with them(who hasn`t the last couple of months),
    they were actually quite friendly: on 1 flight I had some trouble falling asleep, I ended up playing chess in the galley with the flight attendants.
    The airline itself: they cancelled my FCO-GIG flight but they launched a new one, 12h after normal departure time.. wasn`t to happy about the cancellation.
    (I did get a room for the night & also food/drinks were provided)
    On Ryanair: Only at check-in were they unfriendly. But if you really want a EU low cost carrier who can`t even move their lips to fake a smile-> Wizzair is definitely the way to go 🙂

  3. Don’t forge how filthy most AA planes are. It’s like they never bother to wipe the seats or plastic parts down, ever.
    I don’t typically have many issues With United or American but they are so much worse than airlines like SW that it shows.

  4. Completely agree with your business partner on Air Asia – I’ve had two excellent (and very safe) travel expeirences with them, and the european budget carriers could learn a few tricks from them. As for “nothing on board for you” comment – what do you expect from a budget airline with super low fares?

  5. Just took Ryan Air from Frankfurt to Rome and back – actually, most things went well (followed their rules so no “special” last-minute fees!), BUT, as a pilot and flight instructor, with some training in 737’s, I fell that their pilots really, really need to learn how to land – they were awful, and the second landing almost surely would necessitate special inspection as it was WAY beyond “firm” – scared even me! Not sure death is worth a cheap ticket.

  6. I absolutely can NOT agree with you about Air Asia – I have flown 4 times and all 4 times have been WONDERFUL.

    Cheap ticket, plane less than 50% full and cute, young, friendly flight attendants — what more could you want.

  7. LIAT aka Late If AT all and Leave Island Any Time (their anytime, not yours, and typically not at the same time as your luggage)

    They truly embrace the “island time” mentality

  8. Aeroflot was okay in economy from JFK to Moscow. The plane was new and the service was okay. I don’t think I would fly with them for short haul though.

  9. Air Asia is great. So what if they are bare bones… they are significantly cheaper than the nearest competitor, even when adding in baggage fees. You can also pre-order decent food at a discount. What other carrier allows you to have a full coconut delivered to your seat for 2 bucks?

  10. I’m fairly sure American has the best US domestic catering in the sky right now — I’m not sure how you can say it’s nonexistent. The coach buy-on-board stuff actually ascends beyond acceptable to good, and their domestic F catering is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.

  11. Old planes for American? They just got a brand new fleet and its a lot better than United or Delta!

  12. Not sure if you have actually flown Air China. I have been told that their F is pretty good now. You need to be careful intra china, but I think you over generalize. Why some of the others? Have you flown them all? Personal experience or hearsay?

  13. FWIW, flew China Eastern summer 2012 JFK to Ho Chi Minh City, via Shanghai, r/t, and had no problems whatsoever. Plane on the way back appeared brand new. Not luxury, food was very average, but for the price I wouldn’t hesitate to give them a try. They were app. $500 cheaper than anybody else. I get the sense all the Chinese carriers are improving …

  14. You are the first person I have ever heard of playing chess in the galley. How cool. I have not tried Wizzair despite being in Hungary a few times this year. I could not find a flight that matched my schedule. They are on my list to try. I actually like Easyjet as a Low Cost Carrier.

  15. Bogus content written by somebody who has not personally flown many of the carriers he/she comments about – just another of those bloggers trying to score hits and earn commissions from credit card sales. What a colossal waste of my time!

  16. the average AA plane is 14.8 years old. As indicated above, I do not like United for a number of reasons. The United fleet is slightly younger than AA at 13.4 years. You are indeed correct regarding Delta’s fleet at 16.3 years. One difference is that the AA planes LOOK old.

  17. I think the Chinese carriers are improving dramatically but China Eastern is still in my bottom ten. Glad you had a good China Eastern experience though. There are many others who didn’t!

  18. I am looking at international and domestic. I think Delta’s catering is better than American- sorry. United is the worst. In fact the food I have had on United is consistently the worst I have ever had on any airline.

  19. I am sorry you feel that. But you are very wrong in saying I have not flown the carriers! I have now flown 83 airlines. In 2012 I have flown 121 times to destinations on 5 continents on 36 I often choose flights to make sure I am experiencing different carriers. To be frank, I write this blog because I want to share my experiences. I dont mind being disagreed with but as you can see being called “bogus” touched a raw nerve!

  20. Cute young and inexperienced flight attendants. I was not convinced I would be helped in an emergency.

  21. Hi Chris. Yes, I fly a lot with AA. Being a One World carrier, they are linked into Qantas so when Qantas offloads me in LAX, AA usually pick me up from there! I agree. United’s morale is very low but American’s is not much different. Of course this is a subjective thing and I would be interested (or terrified) to see a study comparing airline employee morale. What would be nice though, is to have airline staff that feel great about their employers and are working as a team in challenging times. Southwest feels like that. Jetblue feels like that. Virgin Australia feels like that. American does not.

  22. Thanks Roland for your message. Specifically with which area do I have no idea? What would you put in your bottom ten? MJC

  23. Hey Flying Scotsman, my business partner will be pleased with your assessment of Air Asia!

  24. I have flown Aeroflot domestic. Back in the 1990’s it would fit your skepticism. However, now they have a new fleet of Airbus and Boeing planes and their on-board experience easily beats most domestic US carriers. Still a bit stiff on the ground, but then that is part of the Russian experience.

  25. Thanks David for your comment. I have yet to fly Aeroflot. I know their fleet is improving. I almost did fly them this year but that fell through. I still cannot recommend them based on their “stiff Russian experiences”!

  26. I personally can not be bothered worrying about an emergency – how often does one occur?

    Cheap unfilled flights are what I like and Air Asia usually has both.

  27. Martin- Thanks for the post. However, I’m completely baffled by some of your list. For instance, just flew Alitalia from JFK to FCO on the A330 in Magnifica class. Prob one of the best true biz class to europe with the exception of swiss. Food was 5 star and so were the flight attendants.

    Another, how in the world can you have AA on the list and not US Airways or AirTran?????. I’m exec plat with the airline for past three years running and yes there are things to be desired but this airline trumps it’s domestic counterparts..

    I do agree with Spirit rating !

    I would love to see your top 10 airline list..

    Have a good new year and safe travels!

  28. Hi Adam. Thank you. I think you were luckier than I have been with Alitalia!
    My Top Ten list comes Saturday. What would you put in your ten worst?
    I am glad we agree on Spirit. US Air edged out of the bottom ten this year. i found them to be improved. Having said that if there was a bottom 11…… Delta I think have improved way past AA. Better service, nicer lounges, and wifi. Punctuality on Delta arrivals: 72% on time vs American 62% . AirTran are basically gone now and I actually found them to be okay. Happy flying to you too.

  29. Aeroflot’s product is relatively decent (or even better than average) for long-haul intercontinental flights, a bunch of mid-haul intercontinental flights and for EU-Russia flights of relevance to my own travels. Aeroflot today is much better than it was ten years ago and it often provides a pretty good overall value proposition albeit ground and in-flight service can seem pretty cold at first quite often and transits at SVO can be a long, long walk.

    Aeroflot happens to be one of the best airlines with regard to handing out entertainment items (toys/books for example) for children to take home.

    For many years I had Aeroflot on an avoid generally list. They are upgraded and I now no longer generally avoid them. I actually find them to be a good value now relative to the rest of the major players in the US and Europe.

  30. Interesting article, although obviously with budget airlines many people’s expectations will be lower in any case. I look forward to reading your list of top airlines, then perhaps we can better judge what you think it is reasonable to expect on a cheap flight.

  31. I think the distinction between “Full service” and “Low Cost” are becoming increasingly blurred. The other reality is that most people on LCC end up paying fares not much different to full service when you add fees, charges, meals and baggage in. Some end up paying more than they would have on a normal airline. Being Low Cost does not mean being bad and Full service does not always mean good!

  32. Hi Roland. Specifically what do I not know what I am talking about? Who would you put in your worst airlines? Which airlines would you remove?

  33. I have flown with most of the above airlines between the USA & others South east asia countries. I’ve to agree that the four airlines Spirit, Air Asia, Air China, United are the worst ones among the list.

  34. what is your problem!?! Jetstar is a good airline. air asia I had the best experience with them! tiger is alite! u r exhaggerating these airlines! these are not bad. do not listen to this person! they r provided wrong information!

  35. I hope to fly air koryo when I visit dprk… Due to sanctions, they can only use soviet era planes. When are you going to North Korea?

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