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Most of us have at least one airline that, due to previous experience, we won't touch with a bargepole unless absolutely necessary. But that big delay on Jetstar or Ryanair not letting you take your bag on board pales into insignificance when compared with the horrors of some carriers around the world…
You'd be hard pushed to find an airline with a bleaker route map than FlyDamas. With a hub airport in Damascus, this single plane airline runs flights to elsewhere in war-torn Syria, as well as to Iraq and Sudan. The only destination that doesn't fit in the extremely dicey category is Kuwait, which is frankly about as fun as sitting in a hot, sterile box for days on end.
Many budget airlines are shockers for wheedling extra cash out of passengers in spurious add-on fees, although Spirit Airlines is notoriously bad for it in the US. It's not the only reason the airline is hated though – it also crams passengers into the tiniest seats in the sky. Its A319, A320 and A321s are set out to give a borderline inhumane 28 inches (71 centimetres) of seat pitch. Others guilty of this battery cage-esque seating include Scoot, Iberia and Cebu Pacific.
The Spanish carrier had the recent dubious honour of being recognised as the most delayed airline flying to Britain. Which, given that most major airlines fly to Britain, is quite the achievement. The study by the Press Association, using Civil Aviation Authority data, found that the average Vueling flight towards the end of 2018 was 31 minutes late. Cathay Pacific came out best on this one, with flights an average of just eight minutes late.
Claim Compass, which assesses airlines on the somewhat bizarre twin criteria of on-time performance and how well they process refund requests, had Tunisair bottom of its 2018 list. Figures provided showed 60 per cent of flights were delayed, and the Tunisian airline took an absurd average of 408 days to respond to compensation claims. That compares with 18 per cent and 27.5 days for the winner, South African Airlines.
Of course, hardly anyone flies Tunisair, so let's look at the relative big boys in the Claim Compass study. Of these, TAP Portugal comes off very badly indeed. Thirty-eight per cent of flights are delayed, with an average delay of 47 minutes. Claim responses, for those who care, took an average of 72 days. That's bad enough to beat only Tunisair and fairly obscure French carrier Aigle Azur in the rankings.
Aviation geek website Airlineratings.com hands out star ratings based on safety, and while the likes of Air New Zealand and Qantas get the full seven stars, only one airline has a dismal one-star rating. That's Nepal Airlines, which has failed the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) and is on the EU blacklist of airlines not allowed to fly there. It's also got a big red cross in the fatality-free for 10 years box.
Seven airlines on the Airlineratings.com list have a measly two stars, and these include such delights as Blue Wing in Suriname and Airlines PNG in Papua New Guinea. But two Afghan Airlines – Ariana and Kam Air – stand out as particularly unappealing. Largely because, even though some destinations (Istanbul, Dubai) aren't entirely horrendous, Kabul is probably one of the least appealing hub cities on earth right now.
The biggest air disaster of 2018 came in October when Lion Air flight 610 crashed into the Java Sea after take-off from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board. Unfortunately, the tragedy was hardly the only blemish on Lion Air's record. A quick glance at its Wikipedia page shows a worryingly long "Incidents, accidents and other controversies" section.
The crashes of Lion Air flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 both took place on Boeing 737-MAX planes, which have since been globally grounded due to worries over one of the automated flight controls. This grounding has had an effect on several airlines, including Norwegian Air Shuttle and Air Canada. But worst hit is Southwest Airlines, which has 31 in its fleet and another 280 on order. And that has meant for mass flight cancellations.