Revealed: The 10 Most Unreliable Airlines

Revealed: The 10 Most Unreliable Airlines

DALLAS — Continuing with our recent airline ranking posts, we share new research from Compare the Market that reveals the world’s most unreliable airlines based on the number of complaints and the amounts remedied in the last five years.

  • American Airlines (AA) was revealed as the most unreliable airline according to US travelers.
  • The study also looked at UK data with easyJet (U2) ranking top on the list with over 20,906 total complaints.

As the world opened its skies and restrictions lessened in a post-COVID world, many travelers used the opportunity to vacation with friends and family. But not all vacationers made it to their intended destination, at least on time or with all their luggage.

With Google searches for “worst airline in the world” up by +5000%¹ in the past year, new research from Compare the Market has revealed the world’s most unreliable airlines based on the number of complaints and how many were remedied, alongside the cause of those complaints—from flight cancellations to lost luggage and more.

To see how airlines compare, US and UK data were analyzed to reveal the total number of complaints and average payout per airline.

Boeing 777-200 American Airlines N779AN. Photo: Davide Calabresi/Airways

Seven US airlines ranked in the top 10, with American Airlines ranking as the most unreliable overall, according to US travelers.

RankAirlinesFlight ProblemsTotal Reported Complaints in 2022
1American Airlines (AA)21836491
2United Airlines (UA)15385135
3Spirit Airlines (NK)1102 3206
4JetBlue Airways (B6)11672979
5Frontier Airlines (F9)10972871
6Delta Air Lines (DL)9372851
7Southwest Airlines (WN)9632174
8Lufthansa (LH)1671796
9Air India (AI)491661
10Air Canada (AC)3351292

Overall, the American flight companies fared the worst, with seven of the most unreliable airlines based on travelers’ complaints being all US-owned. As the largest airline in the world, it is perhaps no surprise that AA collected the most complaints over the last 12-month period (6,491). In fact, the airline ranked worst across all the factors aside from lost and delayed baggage, with 2,183 reported flight problems and 1,476 refund issues.

United Airlines ranks second with 5,135 complaints and had the most reported incidents with baggage, collecting 763 reports. Budget airlines NK, B6, and F9 rank in the top five with over 2,500 complaints apiece.

In terms of non-US airlines, German flight company LH ranked eighth as one of the most unreliable with 1,796 customer complaints over a 12-month period. AI and AC made up the top 10 as customers at AI struggled to obtain refunds, and AC’s main reported issue was delayed and lost baggage.

easyJet Airbus A320 (G-EZGY). Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways

easyJet revealed as the most unreliable airline according to British travelers with 20,906 total complaints

In order to see how the airlines fared across the Atlantic, Compare the Market also looked at UK data to reveal which airlines received the most complaints, as well as how much the average payout was for each airline.

Below are the top 10 most unreliable airlines according to British travelers:

RankAirline/AirportTotal ComplaintsAverage Awarded (USD)Total score
1easyJet (U2)20,906684.393.88188
2TUI (BY)10,4941362.793.73488
3Ryanair (FR)18,457516.863.43550
4British Airways (BA)11,151955.113.05105
5Thomas Cook (MT [defunct])3,0051052.791.88311
6Norwegian Air3,313819.741.70114
7Small Planet Airlines221978.921.64013
8Wizz Air (W9)5,788555.981.60251
9Tap Portugal (TP)692873.531.45163
10Virgin Atlantic (VS)1,5121297.361.43593

With Google searches for ‘easyJet flight cancellations’2 having an uplift of +600%² over the past year, it’s maybe of little surprise that the low-cost British airline ranked as the most unreliable. In fact, the company has awarded customers a whopping US$7.7m in total compensation since 2017.

Other airlines to be included in the most-unreliable list include British airline TUI, which awarded the most compensation to travelers at US$9.1m and has received a total of 10,494 complaints in the past five years. Irish low-cost company Ryanair ranked third on the list with a total of 18,457 complaints, and just 59% of these were resolved.

Commenting on the study, Adrian Taylor, General Manager of General Insurance at Compare the Market Australia stated, “When going on holiday, planning your journey to be as stress-free as possible means that you have more time to enjoy your destination and make memories with friends and family. Unfortunately, sometimes instances such as flight delays, cancellations, and lost baggage can be out of your control, but selecting a trusted airline with a reliable reputation can lessen the chance of these scenarios happening.”

“However, by purchasing comprehensive travel insurance in advance, should the worst happen, you may be able to make a claim, which will help ease the burden when you get home.”

To view the full list, including data on the most reliable airlines, visit Compare the Market

Featured image: American Airlines N346AN Boeing 767-323(ER). Photo: Brandon Farris/Airways

Data and sources:

  • Worldwide Google search data is correct for the last 12 months and is correct as of 21/12/2022
  • Worldwide Google search data is correct for the last 12 months and is correct as of 21/12/2022


US sources:

US methodology:

This dataset ranks 102 different airlines, based on complaint categories over the past 12 available months (September 2021–August 2022). To do this, the number of complaints in each category has been totaled to give the total number of complaints for the past 12 months. The airlines were then ranked, with the airline with the fewest total complaints ranked first.

The data gathered is correct as of 07/12/2022. The most recent data possible was used in compiling this dataset. Figures for certain airlines falling under the same company were aggregated.

UK Methodology

This dataset ranks 175 different airlines based on complaints and compensation awarded. To do this, five different factors were gathered, using all the available data from the UK Civil Aviation Authority (Q4 2017 to Q2 2022). Once the data for the factors was collected, the factors were then normalized, to provide each factor with a score between 0 and 1.

The normalized values were then summed to give each airline a total score of 5. The airlines were then ranked from highest to lowest, based on their total scores, with the worst airline for complaints being ranked first.

The factors used are as follows:

  • Total Complaints: The sum of remedied complaints, and complaints with no remedy. This is not directly calculated from “Complaints received Reg 261”, “Complaints received ‘others’”, and “Complaints received Reg 1107”, as they contradicted the values for remedied and non-remedied complaints. 
  • Total Remedied Complaints: The number of complaints that were remedied.
  • Total Awarded: The total amount awarded by each airline for complaints.
  • Average Awarded: The average amount awarded by each airline for complaints. (Total Awarded / Total Remedied Complaints)
  • Complaint Uphold Rate (%): The percentage of complaints that were upheld. (Total Remedied Complaints / Total Complaints) *100)

Where data was not available, it was given a score of 0. The information has been gathered and is current as of 07/12/2022.

You cannot copy content of this page