US Air Travel Report Shows Complaints are Sky High

An airport arrivals and departures display
Photo Credit: Markus Spiske via Unsplash

LONDON – The United States Department of Transportation has issued its latest Air Travel Consumer Report. This report is made up of data regarding airline operational data for the month of July, measuring such things as: on time performance, complaints received and mishandled baggage.

The initial data shows that there was a 16.5% increase in complaints between June and July (2022) and complaints received on the whole, were up 260% when compared against pre-pandemic levels.

The information released is done so in a bid to help support consumers who wish to see the data behind quality of service provided by airlines. 

U.S Secretary for Transport, Pete Buttigieg has recently told airlines to pull their socks up and improve their service. Alongside this feedback, a dashboard has been created that means passengers that have seen disruption such as a delay or cancellation can work out what they are owed by the airline.

Since this dashboards inception, nine airlines have now gone on to change their processes to guarantee meals and or hotels in the event of significant delay or cancellation that fell within the airlines control.

Airlines operations are now monitored so as to protect passengers from unrealistic scheduling of flights, and to prove that airlines are complying with aviation consumer protection requirements. 

The 607,657 flights that were operated in July 2022 was 13.5% lower than that of pre-pandemic July 2019. These 2022 figures also up 0.35% from the same time last year and 4.1% up compared to the month previous in June 2022.

Cancellations were virtually unchanged in both years, measuring 1.8% in 2022 against a 1.7% in 2021. When looking at pre pandemic, there was a 2.1% cancellation rate against a higher baseline of 717,684 flights scheduled.

The report recorded the comments below in reference to both ‘on time arrival’ and ‘cancellations’ during July:

“In July 2022, reporting marketing carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 74.9% up from 73.5% in June 2022 and down from 76.9% in pre-pandemic July 2019. The year-to-date on-time arrival rate for 2022 is 75.8%.”

“In July 2022, reporting marketing carriers canceled 1.8% of their scheduled domestic flights, higher than the rate 1.7% in July 2021 and lower than the rate of 2.1% in pre-pandemic July 2019 and 3.1% in June 2022.”

During the month, the Department of Transport received 6,831 complaints about airline service from passengers. These figures are high. 16.5% higher than June 2022, and a staggering 264.3% increase on the 1,875 received in July 2019.

When breaking down these complaints, 50.6% were against U.S carriers, 43.3% against foreign air carriers, and 414 fell at the doorstep of travel companies. 

The most frequent complaints were baggage related, with 27% of the share being around bag issues, predominantly against foreign air carriers. A close second (26.5%) of complaints concerned cancellations delays or deviation away from schedule.

All airlines that subject consumers to disruption by way of delay or cancellation are swiftly prompted to refund those passengers that do not want to accept any offered alternatives. 

Since the implementation of the aforementioned dashboard, the process of issuing refunds has proved to be slicker. The Office of Aviation Consumer Protection holds the airlines accountable to  refund requirements.

Things such as taking enforcement action against airlines that hold off issuing refunds to those consumers that are entitled to them. 

Other air travel complaint categories that have been captured in the report include; tarmac delays, mishandled baggage, mishandled wheelchairs and scooters (1,131), bumping or overselling seats, incidents involving animals (2), complaints around treatment of disabled passengers (248) and also complaints about discrimination (13).

For further information and reference on the ATCR, follow the link for the full, comprehensive report:

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