Worst Company In America Round One: Spirit Airlines Vs. Delta

The final day of Round One competition is waiting on the tarmac, ready to take off. Unfortunately, these two airlines would like to charge you for the privilege of voting on which one is worse.

First to taxi down the runway is Delta, which has continued to act like the biggest, greediest airline, in spite of being bumped from the nation’s top spot by the merger of United and Continental.

As many Consumerist readers know, Delta not only has a reputation for misplacing pets; it was also responsible for more than half the pets who died on airplanes in 2011.

It also managed to finish dead last in last summer’s ACSI customer service ratings for airlines. In fact, Delta’s rating managed to drop nearly 10% from the previous year and greater than 27% since the ratings began being reported in 1995.

And yet Delta still took in an astounding $952 million in baggage fees — nearly $300 million more than United and Continental took in during the same time and roughly 28% of what the entire U.S. airline industry made on the fees.

While Delta might have led the pack in the gross revenue from fees, its contender in today’s bout seems to rely on the add-on costs for its basic business model.

Spirit’s cut of the fee pie is only 1/7 that of Delta’s, but the fees account for more than 10% of the smaller airline’s total revenue, three times the percentage at Delta.

In what we continue to assume is a hilarious joke, Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza has called his company “the transparency leader and most consumer-friendly airline,” all while trying to fight price transparency, claiming it’s a government conspiracy to hide taxes.

Spirit also thinks that the way to get around a new rule allowing passengers to change their reservations, sans fee, within 24 hours of booking a ticket is to tack on a “$2 Dept. of Transportation Unintended Consequences Fee.” That was a policy that was so consumer-friendly that Spirit is being sued over it.

Of course, this is the same airline that pioneered charging for carry-on bags — and called it a “consumer benefit.” And wants $5 to print your boarding pass. And penalizes you for not paying for your bags far enough in advance.

Now that we’re cleared for takeoff, it’s time to buckle up and vote.

(Voting for this poll will close at 11:59 p.m. ET on Tuesday March 20.)

This is a post in our Worst Company In America 2012 series. The companies competing for this honor were chosen by you, the readers. See the entire WCIA 2012 bracket and schedule of match-ups HERE.