Poll: Have you ever passed up the cheapest airfare to avoid a bad airline?

People love to complain about the dismal state of air travel these days. Whether it’s the stomach-churning airline food (and there’s so little of it!), the complete lack of leg room, or the fact that your luggage was for some reason routed through Honolulu, we’ve come to expect some pretty poor service from quite a few airlines these days.

In any other industry, customers register their indignation by refusing to spend money at the offending establishment. Found a finger in your Caesar’s Salad? You’re probably never visiting that restaurant again. Tired of your cable cutting out in the middle of House? You just might cancel that company’s service and call up their competitor (who’ll probably even throw in a year of Starz at no extra charge!)

But with airlines, we’re like the pathetic girlfriend who’s been cheated on five times but still believes her boyfriend when he says, “Seriously, this time will be different! I’ve changed!” The worst airlines stay in business because by and large people are willing to put up with crummy service if it means they get a cheap flight.

I mean, imagine you’ve just done a search on Kayak for a flight from San Diego to Boston departing on November 4 and returning on the 15th. The lowest fare shows up as $228, but it’s with an airline that’s burned you in the past. (Let’s call them Cut-Rate Airlines.) This is an airline that’s arrived to its destination late almost half the time you’ve flown with them. They’ve lost your bags twice, and both times they shipped them to you two days later. Their food stinks and the flight attendants have never been especially pleasant either.

Fortunately, there’s an almost identical flight aboard Pleasant Air, a carrier you’ve flown with a dozen times without any problems. But that flight costs $288, sixty dollars more than the flight on Cut-Rate. So what do you do?

I’m interested in this question because as much as people love to complain about airlines, especially those incompetent bastards at [insert bad airline here], I usually find that people prefer the lowest airfare to paying more to fly with an airline with better service.

So, Gadling readers, am I wrong? Can airlines continue to treat their passengers like crap as long as they offer low fares? Make your voice heard in the poll below– or in the Comments.