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Airline Complaints Nearly Triple in Post-Pandemic Travel Rush

New data from the U.S. Department of Transportation shows while on-time data hasn’t changed with airlines, the number of complaints has gone up 296% compared to before the pandemic.
Flyers are not happy with the airlines and are voicing their complaints to the U.S. Department of Transportation.


In the July 2022 Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR), the latest data shows that complaints nearly tripled in May 2022 compared to the same month in 2019.


Top Complaints Include Flight Disruptions and Lost Luggage

 In May 2022 alone, the DOT received over 2,400 complaints from flyers, reflecting the continued chaos of the post-pandemic air travel rush. In May 2019, the agency only fielded 814 complaints, while flyers filed 1,220 complaints in May 2021 – over one year into the pandemic.


While refunds were the top consumer complaint, flight problems were the second most common issue. Flyers filed 571 complaints about cancellations, 257 complaints on delays and 133 misconnection complaints. The remaining top five complaint categories were regarding reservations, ticketing and boarding, baggage, and airfares.


Although flyers expressed more frustration with airlines, the actual on-time performance was not much different compared to the same month pre-pandemic. In May 2022, flights were on time 77.13% of the time, compared to 77.9% in May 2019. The biggest reasons for hold-ups include air carrier delays (defined as delays “due to circumstances within the airline’s control,” including crew problems), late arriving aircraft and national aviation system delays. Only 1.9% of flights were cancelled in May 2022.


The number of mishandled bags also increased compared to the same time last year, leading to a spike in complaints. Out of over 42 million bags boarded on commercial aircraft, 237,828 were mishandled, for a total of 0.56 mishandled per 100,000 enplaned. American Airlines and their network mishandled the most bags, with a total of 76,059 were “lost, damaged, delayed, or pilfered.” Delta Air Lines mishandled 44,972 bags in the month, while Southwest Airlines mishandled 41,232 in the month.


Wheelchairs and scooters were not invulnerable to the losses. Over 1,100 mobility devices were mishandled during the month, with the most lost by American. Southwest came in second, while Delta mishandled the third most devices.


Data Comes After Flyers Share Stories of Frustrations with Media

The data comes as flyers are taking their complaints to the court of public opinion and sharing their nightmare stories with the media. While one family says American tried to charge $30,000 in change fees, another claims United’s cancellations and lost luggage cost them $16,000 in replacing items.

unfrequentflyer September 9, 2022

Why there is no caviar and champagne in Y class?  haha

jbrene July 30, 2022

We've taken 4 trips this summer and only had three problems.  The first was on a return flight from New Orleans to Kansas City when our American flight was delayed due to a maintenance issue and we would miss our connection.  AA rerouted us through Philedelphia in main cabin seats when we had booked first class.  They then gave us a refund of $87/ticket, when the difference between first class and main cabin for that particular flight was $300!  We've complained, but heard nothing for 8 weeks!  The second was when Alaska changed our flight to Portland from a direct flight at 5:30 pm to a flight with a 2.5 hour layover at 7:00 am!  This was very inconvenient, but at least we still got to Portland on the same day.  In the third issue our Delta flight to BWI was delayed by maintenance issues and we would miss our connection in Atlanta.  I was on the phone/computer for over 3 hours with various Delta staff trying to get a new flight and finally had to rebook for the next day and lose a day of vacation sight seeing!  Very distressing and not the type of service I had come to expect from Delta!

50ae July 21, 2022

I've only been stuck overnight once this year compared to every other week in 2019 so relatively they seem to be doing much better for me,