Revealed: The 10 most unreliable airlines

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A recent study from the researchers at Compare the Market AU has revealed the world’s most unreliable airlines, adding an extra layer of stress with the peak holiday travel season in full swing. 

Seven American airlines ranked in the top 10 with American Airlines ranking as the most unreliable – this was based on 2,183 recorded flight problems and 6,491 reported complaints in 2022.

New research from Compare the Market has revealed the world’s most unreliable airlines based on the number of complaints, and how many were remedied, alongside the cause of those complaints – from flight cancellations to lost luggage and more.

Unpacking the Data

The spotlight falls on American carriers, as a staggering seven of them secure positions in the top 10 most unreliable list, with American Airlines claiming the dubious title of the overall least reliable carrier.

Drawing insights from 2,183 recorded flight problems and a staggering 6,491 complaints in the year 2022, American Airlines topped the Compare the Market listings.

Delving deeper into the research from Compare the Market, the analysis spans both US and UK data, unraveling the total number of complaints and the average payout per airline.


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It is here that the trend emerges—seven US airlines dominate the top 10 most unreliable list, painting a concerning picture of the American aviation landscape.

Passengers at an airport departure lounge.
Photo Credit: Magic K via Pexels

As the world’s largest airline, American Airlines takes center stage in the analysis. Collecting 6,491 complaints over the last 12-month period, the airline fares poorly across all aspects, except for lost and delayed baggage.

With 2,183 reported flight problems and 1,476 issues with refunds, it seems that American Airlines grapples with multiple facets of customer dissatisfaction.

Securing the unenviable second position is United Airlines, with 5,135 complaints and a notable focus on baggage-related incidents, amassing 763 reports.

This paints a rather bleak picture of the challenges faced by passengers when flying with these major American carriers.

Budget Airlines in the Spotlight

The top five most unreliable airlines are not exclusive to the major players; budget airlines Spirit, JetBlue, and Frontier Airlines make a notable appearance with over 2,500 complaints each.

This underscores the notion that reliability issues are not confined to industry giants but extend to budget carriers, affecting a broad spectrum of travelers.

Insights from Adrian Taylor

Commenting on the study, Adrian Taylor, General Manager of General Insurance at Compare the Market Australia, emphasizes the significance of planning for stress-free journeys.

He notes that while unforeseen circumstances like flight delays and lost baggage may be beyond one’s control, choosing a trusted airline with a reliable reputation can mitigate the likelihood of encountering these issues.

Taylor suggests a proactive approach to travel mishaps by advocating for the purchase of comprehensive travel insurance in advance.

In the unfortunate event of the worst-case scenarios unfolding, having travel insurance provides a safety net, potentially allowing travelers to make claims that ease the burden upon returning home.


US sources:

US Methodology

This dataset ranks 102 different airlines, based on complaints categories over the past 12 available months (September 2021 – August 2022).

To do this, the number of complaints in each category has been totalled to give a total number of complaints for the past 12 months. The airlines were then ranked with the least number of total complaints being ranked 1.

Data gathered is correct as of 07/12/2022. The most recent data possible was used in compiling this dataset. Figures for certain airlines falling under the same company were aggregated.

UK Methodology

This dataset ranks 175 different airlines, based on complaints and compensation awarded. To do this, 5 different factors were gathered, using all the available data from the UK Civil Aviation Authority (Q4 2017 to Q2 2022).

Once the data for the factors was collected, the factors were then normalised, to provide each factor with a score between 0 and 1.

The normalised values were then summed, to give each airline a total score out of 5. The airlines were then ranked from highest to lowest, based on their total scores, with the worst airline for complaints being ranked 1st.

Factors Considered

The factors used are as follows:

Total Complaints: The sum of remedied complaints, and complaints with no remedy. This is not directly calculated from “Complaints received Reg 261”, “Complaints received ‘others’”, and “Complaints received Reg 1107”, as they contradicted the values for remedied and non-remedied complaints. 

Total Remedied Complaints: The number of complaints that were remedied.

Total Awarded: The total amount awarded by each airline for complaints.

Average Awarded: The average amount awarded by each airline for complaints. (Total Awarded / Total Remedied Complaints)

Complaint Uphold Rate (%): The percentage of complaints that were upheld. (Total Remedied Complaints / Total Complaints) *100)

Where data was not available, it was given a score of 0. Data gathered and is correct as of 07/12/2022.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 6 Min Read
6 Min Read
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