For many travelers, the journey is just as important as getting there. For myself, I truly enjoy flying around the world on spur of the moment trips, chasing cheap fares, as well as on my planned aspirational destinations (Bali, anyone?). Often, the choice of which airline to fly makes or breaks the trip for me. Previously, I shared a ranking of the top airlines in the world. I’d be happy to book a trip on any of them with no hesitation.
Now let’s take a look at the other side of that equation. Yes, I am talking about the worst airlines — the ones you probably want to avoid if you have a choice. I have my horror stories of bad experiences from lost baggage, cancelled flights and missed connections forcing me to sleep overnight in an airport gate. While some of it may be luck, the airline you are traveling on can help or add to your travel woes.
So who are the worst airlines to fly according to a study conducted by AirHelp?
AirHelp Airline Rankings
AirHelp is a company that helps passengers get compensation for delayed or canceled flights, and they also just released its rankings of 72 major global airlines. I wanted to take a look at the 15 worst airlines on that list. These are the airlines which just might be the ones you want avoid (or at least have a second thought about) when booking your travels.
What Does Each Category Evaluate?
It’s important to know what is being ranked and what’s the methodology behind the numbers. There were three broad categories here: on-time performance, service quality, and claims processing (AirHelp’s own claims).
So, how did AirHelp calculate these scores?
These are arrival and departure statistics for each carrier’s planes and how many of an airline’s flights are on schedule. (Flights are considered on-time if they departed within 15 minutes of the published departure time, and arrived within 15 minutes of the scheduled arrival time.)
According to AirHelp, they surveyed more than 40,000 passengers and asked them to rate airlines they traveled with for the following three factors:
- Aircraft comfort
- Helpfulness of the crew
- Food offering
This relates to how efficiently airlines handle compensation claims, including how long it takes them to pay out. The company can rely on its own claims processing data to arrive at the scores for these airlines.
AirHelp explains that the score is broken down into the following three factors:
- Claim handling: the percentage of an airline’s claims that are ignored or wrongfully rejected.
- Claim turnaround: the total time it takes an airline to acknowledge and process a claim.
- Claim payout: the time it takes the airline to pay out the compensation after they approve a claim.
Complete List of the Worst Airlines
Here is the full list of the 15 Worst Airlines in the World (according to AirHelp). Of the 72 airlines ranked, here are the bottom 15.
|#||Airline||AirHelp Score (Out of 10)||On-Time Performance||Service Quality||Claim Processing|
|1||Thomas Cook Airlines||5.26||5.6||7.6||2.5|
|12||TAP Air Portugal||6.04||5.2||7.7||5.3|
|15||Gol Intelligent Airlines||6.31||7.8||8.1||3.1|
Breaking Down Each Airline On The List
GOL Intelligent Airlines (6.31) is a Brazilian airline based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. With more than a third of the Brazilian market share it is the largest domestic carrier and third largest international airline in Brazil.
Czech Airlines (6.31) is the national airline of the Czech Republic. Headquartered in Prague, its hub is at Václav Havel Airport Prague. It flies to more than 50 destinations; mainly in Europe. My personal experiences on Czech have me agreeing they are one of the worst airlines. As a top elite in the SkyTeam alliance the carrier gave me no special consideration other than early boarding. Throughout my last trip with them (two flights) I could not get them to re-assign my seats out of the last row. After boarding, there were plenty of seats in front of me but the flight attendant instructed me to stay in my assigned seat.
Air Mauritius (6.11) is the national carrier of Mauritius, a tiny island lying about 575 mile east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. The airline has its fans; it won the World Travel Awards “Indian Ocean Leading Airline Prize” and more than 16 awards as top airline in the past 14 years. This is one of the (worst) airlines I would definitely want to try. After all, it is beautiful Mauritius as their hub. A word of caution: Air Mauritius is not a member of any Big 3 global alliances although we once suspected they would join SkyTeam.
TAP Air Portugal (6.04) is Portugal’s leading airline. They are based in Lisbon. Flying since 1945, they serve more than 80 destinations and often are an economical choice to cross the Atlantic from the USA. I actually like TAP and their business class is more than adequate for a short hop across the Atlantic to get me to the European mainland. They often run very competitive promotional fare sales.
Vueling Airlines (6.02) is TAP’s next door neighbor, based in Barcelona, Spain. It is the largest airline carrier in Spain. Vueling serves over 100 destinations in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. I have had mixed experiences on Vueling. I’ve used them for short flights within Europe as well as flights to northern Africa. I’m not a fan, though. I would much rather fly Air France to Cairo or Casablanca than Vueling.
Adria Airways (5.98) is the largest airline in Slovenia. This is an airline rarely mentioned in blog posts. It is a member of Star Alliance though and can be used for redemptions on short segments. One-way segments can be as cheap as 8,000 United MileagePlus miles. I have never flown Adria but would fly one of their three (right, three) Airbus A319’s. The rest of their fleet is made up of CRJ700’s & 900’s and six Saab 2000’s.
Aerolineas Argentinas (5.97) is Argentina’s national carrier and largest airline. It is headquartered in Buenos Aires. The company has an interesting history, and today is run by the Argentine government and now owned by the Argentine government as well. Hmmm, a government owned and operated airline? I don’t see a problem with that, but maybe that explains the poor ratings on claims processing? Pretty near the bottom of airlines rated, it has been the speculation of many acquisition talks but nothing has materialized. It is, since 2012, a member of the SkyTeam alliance.
Transavia (5.84) is a Dutch budget airline and is owned by KLM, so its part of the KLM-Air France group and SkyTeam. Based out of Amsterdam the airline is in a prime location for intra-European flights. It is often a good go-to cheaper option. Having flown them several times, I almost liken them to Southwest Airlines, plus they operate Boeing 737’s for their fleet.
Laudamotion (5.69) has gone through some significant changes. It was previously known as Niki, then Laudamotion and most recently as Lauda, after it was primarily purchased by Ryanair. In its early history it was a charter airline catering to businesses with a fleet of private jets. Something got lost in the transition to commercial passenger service and that may explain why it faired so low in the rankings.
Norwegian (5.67) is Norway’s low-cost airline as well as their largest airline. It is the third largest low-cost carrier in Europe behind easyJet and Ryanair and the ninth-largest low-cost airline in the world. To many Americans, Norwegian rose to fame as Norwegian launched its long-haul flights between Europe and North America in mid-2013. One of its chief low-cost competitors, WOW Air, declared bankruptcy ceasing all operations with no notice. Likely this has helped Norwegian gain some passenger traffic. Unfortunately, it seems obvious from the results they need to do a better job handling customer claims to keep that traffic momentum.
Ryanair (5.6) is a low-cost airline based in Ireland. It is another airline (like Transavia) that exclusively operates Boeing 737 aircraft in its fleet. Ryanair is the largest European low-cost carrier by scheduled passengers flown. They carry more international passengers than any other airline. They also became the first airline to be a top 10 coal polluter in the European Union. Ryanair is often referred to as the low-cost airline you love to hate.
Korean Air (5.49) Another SkyTeam member here and I have to say I am a bit surprised. I really like Korean Air and I have flown them on several long flights in Asia. Their claims processing score of 1.6 forced them way down the rankings of airlines.
Kuwait Airways (5.4) operating with a little more than two dozen aircraft, this airline is the national carrier of Kuwait. Kuwait Airways flies to about three dozen international destinations in Asia, Europe, North America and the Middle East. The carrier scored poorly on claims processing (4.2) as well as on-time flight performance (4.2.)
easyJet (5.29) is another low-cost carrier. EasyJet is based out of London’s Luton Airport. It operates more than 1,000 routes to domestic and international destinations spanning 30 countries. Another budget carrier that, in my opinion, puts profits ahead of service. I would fly them on hops less than an hour, but would choose other options (KLM CityHopper for example) if I was traveling any significant distance. Interestingly, EasyJet has a reward miles sharing agreement with Emirates.
The Worst Airline in the World?
Thomas Cook Airlines (5.26) is both a charter and scheduled airline. It flies primarily out of Manchester and Gatwick airports in England. Its parent company also owns Condor, a German-based airline. Thomas Cook is focused on gaining market share as a leisure destination airline. It partners with Thomas Cook Groups subsidiaries such as tour operators, Airtours, Ving and Condor to name a few. The airline has a strong following among vacationers, but its claim processing (2.5) and on-time (lack of) performance (5.6) dragged it to be crowned the worst airline in the world. Ouch!
I find it significant that only one of the listed airlines is based in Asia. Korean Airlines, a member of SkyTeam ranked 69th of the 72 carriers in the results. It landed there largely due to its poor showing in the claims processing category, scoring a miserable 1.6 points. Although I love flying many SkyTeam partners, it’s apparent from their score that if things do go wrong, you may not get much relief from Korean Airlines.
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Do you agree with AirHelps’ rankings? Have you flown any of these carriers?
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