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Consumer Reports lists best, worst airlines

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

With Memorial Day this weekend, we are now officially in peak travel season. To help you navigate, we're revealing the best and worst airlines.

More than 16,000 travelers weighed in on their flights 30,000 feet in the air. And the list of complaints is long. From Southwest to Spirit, did your airline make the grade?

What used to be free now comes at a cost, and travelers are speaking out. Fees for checked baggage and limited leg room are among the many complaints travelers expressed in Consumer Reports' airlines ratings survey.

"A full third of survey respondents complained about crowded flights. And a quarter complained about cramped seats," Consumer Reports' Karen Jaffe said.

Spirit Airlines came in last, hitting rock bottom on all of the customer benchmarks, including seating comfort, cabin staff service, cleanliness and baggage handling.

"For price, I hear they are quite good, but it is the unknown that people are concerned about -- the fees," said Mike Weingart with Air, Land, Sea Consultants.

To spare surprises, look online at your carrier's list of fees before booking your flight.

As far as United Airlines, U.S. Airways and American, they did slightly better overall, but received low scores for cleanliness and leg room.

Southwest scored high in customer satisfaction, as did JetBlue. Both fly out of Hobby and charge relatively fewer fees.

"There are ways to save money on those fees. The simplest to me is figure out your favorite airline is and look into their credit card," Weingart said.

If you're looking to save even more money, consider flying on Tuesday, experts say it the best day of the week for finding lower fares.

Southwest did rate high on the list. But the overall winner was Virgin America, which does not fly in or out of Houston. However, it does start service out of Austin soon.

Find Jeff on Facebook at ABC13JeffEhling or on Twitter at @jeffehlingabc13

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