Despite complaint rates being high, passengers are booking fares on ultra-low-cost airlines.
Cramped seating is another source of complaints for the low-cost airlines. For instance, Frontier has added 12 seats to its planes by installing seats that do not have as much padding as the previous ones. For comparison, American Airlines flies its Airbus A321 jets with 181 seats. JetBlue flies the same plane with 190, Spirit with 218, and the new Frontier jets arriving next year will seat 230 passengers.
Some customers complain that by the time all the additional fees are collected, the savings from the lower cost airfare has been absorbed. Extra charges for seating and baggage can add up to a substantial amount of money on a round-trip flight.
But fans of the lower cost trips say you can avoid most of the extra charges by doing some up-front planning and checking and following the rules posted by the airlines. However, more than a few say the mathematics of calculating the cost of a flight is too much of a hassle.
The high number of complaints is not causing the airlines’ business to suffer. Passenger traffic for Spirit Airlines has risen 77 percent between 2011 and 2014, and rival Allegiant is up 39 percent for the same period. Double-digit increases have been recorded by both airlines so far in 2015.
The planes on the ultra-low-cost airlines tend to be newer that the major airlines. Spirit’s fleet of planes has an average age of about five years, which is much younger than most of the U.S airlines’ planes.
And many passengers point out that so what if the plane is 15 minutes late arriving at the destination. As long as the flight was reasonably comfortable and the service was good, they didn’t mind a little delay to save a substantial amount of money.
Besides, the prices the ultra-low-cost airlines are charging may be influencing the major carriers to keep their prices lower to remain competitive. By having the base prices low, they are likely preventing the other carriers prices from being even higher than they already are.
Even the low-cost carriers say the government’s complaint figures are probably not indicative of the actual passenger satisfaction rate. Very few passengers take the time to fill out a formal complaint. Even at the lowest-rated airlines, Spirit and Frontier, the number of complaints recorded by the Department of Transportation is less than one out of every 10,000 passengers.
So the dissatisfaction rate could even be much higher. However, passengers wanting to save money are continuing to book fares, despite the inconveniences, and that doesn’t seem to be slowing down.