Travelers Tired of the Unfriendly Skies Should Skip the Big 3 Airlines

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Travelers struggling to determine the true price of airline travel amid hidden fees will be faced with another struggle this holiday season: rude employees.

The discount travel site Airfarewatchdog.com surveyed 1,005 travelers and found that American Airlines is considered the rudest, followed closely by United, with Delta coming in third. Which was the friendliest of the airlines -- or, in this case, the least rude? That came down to a four-way tie between Alaska, Frontier, JetBlue and Virgin America.

It's probably not a coincidence that United and Delta are also the carriers with among the highest fees for reservation changes, traveling with a pet, and on-board food and drinks.

In other airline rudeness news, it was reported Thursday that flight attendants on Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways have threatened to stop smiling at passengers this month over a pay dispute. And not just smiles: They plan to hold the food and alcohol hostage as well, and follow work rules that would cause flight delays.

American Airlines has just announced a new pricing structure that includes bundling perks into three coach-class fare types. The most basic fare will still require fees for changing flights and checking bags, but another package includes the option to change flights and check bags at no charge, as well as priority boarding and extra frequent flier miles. It's too soon to know if the changes will increase the airline's customer service -- or at least its reputation for customer service among travelers.

High-Profile Problems

Airlines have long struggled with image issues, including several high-profile social media kerfuffles,

Earlier this year, Spirit Airlines' CEO denied a refund to a dying war vet after his doctor deemed him too sick to fly. Last year, Delta caught heat for charging troops returning from Afghanistan excess baggage fees totaling nearly $3,000, despite an agreement with the Department of Defense not to. And who could forget 2009's United Breaks Guitars video series?

Then there's the all-around unpleasantness of flying.

The growing frustration among travelers stems from nearly every aspect of air travel, from aggressive security screening to a lack of in-flight food (or exorbitant costs for those snack boxes).

According to a recent Tingo study, 47 percent of passengers think misbehaving children are the worst travel hazard, and 58 percent want child-free zones on flights. The study also showed that 9 percent of passengers don't approve of frequent fliers getting expedited security clearance.

Increasing fees, fewer flights with more passengers, and delays are all out of the average airline employee's control. However, how those issues are addressed and managed at the individual level makes a large difference to frazzled travelers. Of course, dealing with frazzled travelers is no picnic for employees, either.

To minimize travel stress, utilize automated services as much as possible. Allow plenty of time to clear security, and dodge the check-in counter entirely whenever possible by checking in online, and using curbside baggage check. And lastly, indulge in free travel luxuries to make the journey more bearable.

Molly McCluskey is a frequent traveler and regular contributor to The Motley Fool. Follow her on Twitter @MollyEMcCluskey. She doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned.

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94 Comments

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wingmaniff

I agree, they are all terrible, southwest you feel like a herd of goats getting on , the only thing that is good with the big airlines is the amount of flights and you have the ability to reroute fairly easy if you need to. I question Molly on the reason for this article! Especially since it's written during the holiday travel . it's vague and has no substance , where are you trying to push us to Molly? Or should I say , to fly on your preference airline,Molly? I don't like being herded Molly and I question your motive here!

December 18 2012 at 2:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to wingmaniff's comment
chrosched

me,too,i hope it will be easy,
http://luxurybrandsb.blogspot.com/

January 25 2013 at 1:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
skcalien

Fly Frontier from OKC to Denver and back and find the airline people extremely friendly and always have been on time. The airfare is really reasonable. I would fly Frontier any day.

December 17 2012 at 9:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
talari

They all stink.

December 17 2012 at 7:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
maa2626

flying is like visiting the casino, sometimes its a good experience, sometimes its wreched. a lot of aggravation has been caused by the govt since 9/11. personal idea, with retuning vets from overseas, replace half of TSA with military. imagine, the degree of professionalisim that would blossom. I also would feel secure with trained military and an overt display of wepons. TSA always reminds me of the state DMV.

December 17 2012 at 7:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to maa2626's comment
usmaels1

You are missing an important point of TSA guards. They ''are'' going to die if someone detonates a bomb right while they are in the area where the inspections take place. Show them more respect for putting their lives on the line for you. Most military people would likely not be in a big hurry to get these jobs due to how dangerous they are. For what they do, the TSA guards make incredibly low wages. You probably make more money than they do. Generally speaking, that is the state of jobs in this country. There are way too many jobs paying barely more than you can make at Walmart, Taco Bell, McDonald's, etc. Why don't you seem to know that? Your comparing them to DMV employees is ridiculous. The TSA are not to be messed with...these guys will arrest you and charge you with a felony federal crime in a heartbeat.

December 17 2012 at 8:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to usmaels1's comment
maa2626

"most militry people would likely not be in a big hurry to get these jobs due to how dangerous they are" just thinking out of the box here, JFK or Baghdad, where would you feel safer if you were working? I have a nephew that hires for the TSA, the stories he has would be hilarious if it was not so scary. Yes you are correct, they can make your life miserable, just like the DMV. Sorry Florida, your DMV in ST Johns is the best!

December 17 2012 at 9:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
cap5258

For a change in scenery lets all just take the train

December 17 2012 at 7:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to cap5258's comment
maa2626

good idea, we subsidize amtrack, mind as well get your moneys worth!

December 17 2012 at 9:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
keithrico47

The employees of these companys must hate their jobs,I go to a bank where the tellers never smile and look like they just lost their best friend.I just think that it must be a lousy place to work.

December 17 2012 at 6:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lapedro

another silly article by this left wing liberal tabloid, at least if it were paper you could wipe with it

December 17 2012 at 4:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lapedro

this is news? left wing liberal garbage

December 17 2012 at 3:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
fred

Just keep the fats, the animals and the kids off flights and all will be well.

December 17 2012 at 3:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rockymtn1500

I will not fly at all. I refuse to be gropped and prodded by the TSA perverts. I simply won't do it ! I realize not everyone has to go through this indecent treatment but enough is enough ! Our Congressman & Senate menbers do not have to go through this...THEY can be trusted ! What a joke that is !

December 17 2012 at 3:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply