Flying is enough of an inconvenience as it is without forking money over to the world’s most incompetent and venal airlines. You’re not just trusting these people to get you where you’re going in a timely manner — you’re also trusting them with your property and your life. So. Who are the worst airlines in the world, the ones you should avoid if you possibly can?
For the past six years, AirHelp has compiled lists of the world’s best (and worst) airlines by grading them across three categories. These are:
On-Time Performance — What are the odds this airline is running on time, based on their own statistics?
Quality of Service — How friendly, efficient, and accommodating airline staff, both in flight and at the airport?
Claim Processing — Does the airline fairly compensate passengers for delays and cancellations? How quickly do they process these claims?
So, with this in mind, here are the 10 worst airlines of 2018.
10. Jet Airways
Overall score: 6.2/10
Based out of Mumbai, India, the somewhat redundantly-named Jet Airways has “earned” its place in the top ten worst airlines of 2018 by scoring 6.5/10 for timeliness, 6.5 for service, and 5.6 for claims. So the ratings are bad, but they are consistently bad. Despite this dubious reputation, Jet Airways is the second-largest airline in India.
As you might expect, JA has faced its share of controversies in the past. In 2014, two of its pilots were investigated after the plane they were flying suddenly plunged 5,000 feet mid-flight; the pilot was asleep while the copilot was apparently playing around on her iPad. In 2016, the carrier was accused of kicking passengers off a flight in order to accommodate members of a politically powerful family who didn’t have tickets. That same year, Jet Airways also faced accusations of corrupt dealings with the South African government.
9. Aerolineas Argentinas
Overal score: 6.2/10
Aerolineas Argentinas is the national airline of Argentina. Although it rates an excellent 8.5/10 for timeliness, and 6.5 for service, it receives an abysmal 3.6 for its processing of customer claims.
Ron Hoglund’s review of Aerolineas on Consumer Board is perhaps a good indication of why the airline has such a poor reputation for its handling of customers’ money.
“Airline staff said boarding was closed 45 minutes prior to departure,” Hoglund writes, “and forced us to pay $837.50 to get on the next flight, a change fee of more than double our original tickets. I will fight forever to get this refunded.”
Based on what some other passengers have had to say about AA’s refund policies, forever is probably how long it will take.
Overall score: 6.2/10
Slotting in at 8th worst is another flagship airline — Iberia of Spain. Iberia may be punctual (8.4/10) and polite (7.8), but its handling of customer claims is downright miserable (2.3).
If you believe even half of the customer complaints filed against the airline, you would have to concede that the rating is well-deserved. Time and again, passengers lament that flights they paid for in advance were canceled at the last minute, and they were never compensated.
Passengers are also scathing about Iberia’s apparent inability to manage information. In one particularly heartbreaking complaint lodged in 2017, a would-be passenger claimed the airline sold she and her son two tickets to go visit her dying father. According to this woman, Iberia lost her payment information and refused to let her board.
7. Korean Air
Overall score: 6.1/10
Korean Air performs poorly on two of the three metrics, meriting an 8.3 for service, but just a 6.4 for punctuality, and 3.7 for processing claims. Disgruntled customers online regularly report that Korean Air is often late — which can cause serious problems if you’re flying into Asia and need to make a connecting flight on time. If this does happen to you, the super-low score for claims processing suggests you’ll face an uphill battle to get your money back.
In May of this year, South Korean prosecutors raided the airline’s headquarters. The wealthy (and ill-tempered and frankly insane) family that owns Korean Air has been accused of dodging taxes and embezzling money from their company. Perhaps that’s why they’re so reluctant to give refunds.
Overall score: 6/10
Across the pond, the Irish carrier Ryanair is something of a punchline. This discount airline is the product of loose European transport regulations, and also growing demands for affordable air fare. (And we should note that as a caveat: Ryanair is a dollar-store airline, so it’s kind of meant to be crap.)
If you’re looking to get where you’re going on time and on target, Ryanair isn’t your worst option. They rate 8.6/10 on timeliness, the best of any airline on this list, and manage a 6.3 in service. However, like many other bad airlines, where they really fall apart is in processing claims — 3.3/10.
But Ryanair’s fraught relationship with its own employees has been even more embarrassing.
Until just this year, the airline hired “freelance” pilots who were required to pay as much as €30,000 ($34,800 USD) up-front for their own training.
In August, Ryanair staff in Europe walked off the job for 24 hours in the middle of peak season, leaving 50,000 passengers temporarily stranded.
So, yes, you may save money flying Ryanair. But you may end up paying in other ways.
5. Air Mauritius
Overall score: 6/10
Air Mauritius is the national airline of — you guessed it — Mauritius, a small island nation about 2,000 miles east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. The airline primarily serves its country of origin.
AM scores 6.9/10 for timeliness and 7.8 for service, but just 3.3 for processing claims. (Are you seeing a pattern here?)
A few quotes from passengers’ Skytrax reviews really paint a picture.
“We landed on a Sunday, and had to attend a wedding the same night,” explains one customer. “My wedding clothes and that of my wife were in that [lost] luggage. I complained to the staff, they could not care less and said I was not entitled to anything and was sent away.”
Another flyer sheds some light on way Air Mauritius scores so low on claims. “No compensation for the delay – no apologies for the inconvenience. No miles, no upgrade, nothing. It’s as if we need to be grateful that they actually redirected us, for a ticket which we have paid for!”
Overall score: 5.6/10
Like almost every other carrier on this list, the UK-based easyJet doesn’t make it easy to get your money back. Rating 7.9/10 and 7.8 for on-time arrival and service respectively, they manage an appalling 1.3/10 for handling customer claims.
A number of frankly disgusting incidents back this assessment up.
easyJet has faced plenty of criticism for failing to compensate customers for delays and cancelations in a brisk manner, as they are required to do by law. Back in 2006, one woman made headlines by sending more than 1,000 faxes to the airline in an attempt to get a refund. Her story struck a chord with other disgruntled passengers.
easyJet has repeatedly attempted to deny passage to customers with disabilities. In 2012, the airline was accused of harassing Paralympians, and just this year a British runner with cerebral palsy was asked to “prove” she needed by cabin staff who apparently couldn’t be bothered to accommodate her. The airline has repeatedly been found guilty of discriminating against disabled passengers.
3. Pakistan International Airlines
Overall score: 5.4/10
Now we’re getting into the worst of the worst of the worst. With an on-time rating of 6.1/10, a service rating of 6, a claims rating of 4.2, and an “Accidents and Incidents” section on Wikipedia longer than a Tarantino film, Pakistan International Airlines really stands out as an especially terrible airline.
Just a sampling of reviews on TripAdvisor (37% rated poor or terrible) drives the point home.
“We booked tickets at the PIA counter,” writes one, “and they confirmed the booking. When the time came to board the plane, they said the tickets are not confirmed and we had to pay twice for two tickets otherwise they did not let us board. We showed them the receipt but ALAS!!!”
“Disgusting service, hugely overpriced, horrible moody and rude flight attendants and airport staff,” opines another, adding: “They change your direct return flight to via Karachi without informing you because they are deliberately over booking [sic].”
2. Royal Jordanian Airlines
Overall rating: 5.1/10
It’s kind of amazing how Royal Jordanian Airlines manages to slip into second place. While PIA is dreadful across the board, Jordanian is pretty good in some ways. It pulls off an 8.3/10 for on-time performance, and a 6.3 for service. But for its handling of customer claims it receives an unbelievable 0.8/10 — the worst number on the list in any category.
On TripAdvisor, Facebook, and other platforms, many passengers are impressed with the friendliness of flight attendants, and the state of the planes themselves. But many others report their flights being canceled or delayed for hours on end without any explanation or apology. Still others report that the airline doesn’t seem to answer either e-mails or the phone should you lose your luggage. One woman claims she had to wait 4 weeks to have her lost belongings returned to her because Royal Jordanian sent her someone else’s suitcase by mistake.
At long last, the worst airline of 2018 is…
1. WOW Air
Overall score: 5/10
Based in Reykjavik, Iceland, WOW provides service between North America, Europe, and its home island. A budget carrier, WOW continues the pattern of terrible airlines, with a 7.5/10 for punctuality and a 6.0 for service, but just 1.7 for claims processing.
“WOW Air is the worst airline someone could fly,” says Christian Otto on Skytrax. “Unfortunately the ticket price looked so attractive that we booked the flight. When we checked in, we had to pay an additional $180 dollars for two carry ones and a checked bag. This is more than we have paid for the ticket.”
Fellow passengers warn that everything you would expect to be complimentary on a normal airline comes with a price tag on WOW — including water bottles, any and all food, and bag check. Others note that the washrooms were dirty, the seats uncomfortable, and the service rude. Don’t expect WiFi, TV, radio, or any entertainment. And even if you bring your own, don’t bank on being able to charge any electronics in flight.
Well, that rounds out our list. What do you think? Do the scores accurately reflect the worst airlines of the year? Do you agree with the ranking? Or do you have your own nightmare story? Be sure to let us know. As always — happy trails!