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The Most Hated U.S. Airline Is Also the Most Profitable

Tampa resident Kristy Simon waits in line to check into a Spirit Airlines flight
Tampa resident Kristy Simon waits in line to check into a Spirit Airlines flightPhotograph by Edmund D. Fountain/ZUMA Press/Corbis

Spirit Airlines inspires a special kind of wrath among the American traveling public: It’s the industry leader in customer complaints by a wide margin. Over the last five years, Spirit’s rate of complaints to the Department of Transportation was three times higher than other U.S. airlines, according to a report (PDF) released today by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund.

This is not the first time Spirit has been dinged for customer dissatisfaction. Last year it was the lowest-scoring carrier in a Consumer Reports survey of 16,000 readers. “Poor service, poor communication, poor quality,” a commenter at airline-rating firm Skytrax wrote this week. “You couldn’t even make up how bad they are.” The loathing has also inspired a dedicated Twitter feed: @hatespiritair.