The Top 5 Worst U.S. Airlines

Who doesn't have their own horror-story involving air travel? Screaming kids, terrible food and torture-inducing seats seem to be the norm. But some airlines are scarier than others -- surveys show these five are the worst.

These days, who doesn’t have their own Halloween-worthy horror-story involving airline travel? Screaming kids, scary food and torture-inducing seats seem to have become the norm.

But there are frightful airlines -- and then there are truly frightful airlines. This week, Yahoo! Travel counted down the five worst U.S. airlines, based on the annual Airline Quality Rating (AQR) Report, a joint-venture by professors at Wichita State University and Purdue University. The AQR covers 18 domestic national and regional carriers.

The AQR tracks airline complaints, including on-time arrival, mishandled baggage, delays and involuntary denied boardings. The data are then used to produce an overall quality score. Yahoo! Travel also included data from the American Customer Satisfaction Index and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Report.

So which airlines are the scariest in the sky?

1. Delta Air Lines: (AQR Score: -1.73).

Delta “won” this contest hands-down. It was number one in delays -- 78% of flights arrived on time in the 12-month period ending August 2010 -- and was first in consumer complaints. Customers may be complaining more often about service at Delta, but what they should be complaining about is baggage fees, especially if they’ve got a lot to lug. Here’s a rundown of Delta’s domestic fees:

1st Bag: $25 (online check-in: $23)

2nd Bag: $35 (online check-in: $32)

3rd Bag: $125

Carrying something heavy, or awkward? You’re going to pay for that: Delata charges $90 for bags weighing between 51 and 70 lbs; $175 for bags between 71 and 100 lbs. Passengers with bags larger than 63” to 80” are charges $175, and a whopping $300 per bag for luggage larger than 81”.

2. United Airlines: (Score: -1.43).

Yahoo! Travel said United joins American Airlines and US Airways as one of the three-worst airlines for meals and rude flight attendants. The airline is also second in consumer complaints behind Delta, averaging 1.82 per 100,000 enplanements this year.

Bag fees are only slightly lower than Delta’s: 1st Bag: $25; 2nd Bag: $35; and 3rd Bag: $100. Overweight bags (51 to 100 lbs.) and oversized bags (larger than 62") are $100 each.

3. Alaska Airlines: (Score: -1.39).

If you’re planning on flying Alaska Air, consider packing some extra clothes and other necessities in your carry-on luggage -- most of its customer complaints involve mishandled baggage. The airline’s checked-in luggage fees are a bit more reasonable than Delta and United, however, charging $20 per bag for the first three bags.

4. American Airlines: (Score: -1.25).

American Airlines gets the lowest marks for lost luggage, averaging 4.07 reports per 1,000 passengers, according to the Air Travel Consumer Reports. American Airlines also has some of the industry’s rudest flight attendants and the worst food, according to a survey by SeatGuru.com. (Its regional airline, American Eagle, also received poor marks.) Baggage fees are fairly steep: $25 for the first bag; $35 for the second bag and $100 for the third.

5. US Airways: (Score: -1.19).

US Airways is another airline singled out by SeatGuru.com’s survey as having rude flight attendants and bad food. The airline also received the lowest scores among the major airlines in the J.D. Power 2010 North America Airline Satisfaction Study. Baggage check-in fees were in line with American Airlines; for overweight bags, you’ll pay $50 extra for up to 70 lbs., and $100 for bags 71 to 100 lbs.