Travelers Choice: The Worst U.S. Airline of the Year …

Americans are happier flying today than they’ve been in more than 20 years, according to this annual survey. But the results show that clearly all airlines are not created equal.

Spirit Airlines may offer travelers some of the cheapest airfare deals around, but when it comes to overall customer satisfaction, Spirit crashed and burned in the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s travel report for 2016.

The Florida-based Spirit earned a rating of 62 (out of 100) this year, which is an impressive 15 percent improvement from 2015, but not enough to move the ultra-low-cost carrier out of its last-place finish.

“[Spirit] made big gains this year mostly because of price,” said David VanAmburg, managing director at ACSI. “They don’t spend the money on customer service.”

Spirit is often referred to as a “fee-happy” airline. It offers cheap airfare, but charges extra for everything from seat reservations to drinking water on the plane.

“Things that are often considered ‘free’ on other airlines, there is a cost associated with them, even if fliers don’t want them,” Paul Berry, Spirit’s director of communications, advertising and brand, told CNN Money. “We are giving customers a choice on what they have to pay for.”

Americans rated their airline travel satisfaction in 12 categories, including the ease of making a flight reservation, helpfulness of airline staff, check-in process, baggage handling, quality of in-flight services, seat comfort and airline loyalty programs.

Overall, Americans are happier flying now than they have been since 1994, mainly thanks to a better in-flight experience for passengers. But there’s still plenty of room for improvement considering airlines are still one of the ASCI’s lowest-performing industries.

“Historically, people were generally happy before they got on the plane,” ACSI founder Claes Fornell said in a statement. “Now, that is changing. New planes, more options for in-flight entertainment, and the return of free snacks have resulted in higher passenger satisfaction.”

JetBlue Airways, a perennial favorite with fliers, earned an 80 rating this year, cementing the carrier’s spot at the top of the rankings. Here’s how U.S. airlines stacked up in the ACSI report:

  1. JetBlue Airways: earned 80 out of 100
  2. Southwest Airlines: 80
  3. Alaska Airlines: 77
  4. All others: 73
  5. American Airlines: 72
  6. Delta Airlines: 71
  7. United Airlines: 68
  8. Frontier: 66
  9. Allegiant: 65
  10. Spirit: 62

ACSI’s report is based on responses from nearly 7,000 airlines, hotel and travel industry customers about their recent experiences traveling.

Which airline is your favorite? Share your travel experiences below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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