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DOT: October 2020 Airline Complaints Up 338 Percent Year-Over-Year

DOT: October 2020 Airline Complaints Up 338 Percent Year-Over-Year
Joe Cortez

Flyers are still frustrated in how airlines are handling the COVID-19 pandemic, but most of the complaints sent to the U.S. Department of Transportation are about foreign carriers. The data comes from the latest edition of the Air Travel Consumer Report, issued Jan. 8, 2021.

There’s good news and bad news for airlines in the latest U.S. Department of Transportation Air Travel Consumer Report. Complaints were down by 13.4 percent in October 2020 – but compared year-over-year, the complaint totals were 337.9 percent higher. The latest data comes from the January 2020 issue, released Friday Jan. 8, 2021.

Foreign Airlines Receive Double the Complaints of U.S.-Based Carriers

Of all the complaints filed by consumers, the biggest gripe was about how refunds were handled. Flyers field 4,381 grievances with the DOT in October 2020, compared to only 145 complaints filed in October 2019. Fares were the second most common problem flyers faced, with 184 complaints filed, while the third biggest issue was reservations, ticketing and boarding. Comparatively, flyers in October 2019 filed the most complaints about flight problems, baggage and refunds.

The problem was not limited to only U.S.-based carriers. Flyers filed 2,734 complaints about foreign carriers in October 2020, more than double those filed against U.S. airlines. The DOT also received 911 complaints about travel agents, 16 miscellaneous complaints and four complaints about tour operators.

Among all carriers, TAP Air Portugal received the most complaints on refunds, with 385 filed against the Lisbon-based carrier. Air Canada was the second-most disliked airline based on refund complaints, with the DOT receiving 266 from flyers. United Airlines led both the U.S. based carriers and was third on the overall list, with 231 refund complaints.

Within the U.S. carriers, Frontier Airlines received the second-most complaints, with 208 about refunds alone. In 2020, the Colorado attorney general called upon the DOT to open an investigation into Frontier for their refund practices. In their most recent comments to FlyerTalk, a spokesperson for the Colorado attorney general said their issue with Frontier is “still pending.” American Airlines was the third U.S.-based carrier to get triple-digit refund complaints, with flyers sending the DOT 174 in October 2020.

Airlines Report 90 Percent On-Time Rate, While Reducing Denied Boardings and Mishandled Bags

The report was not all terrible for airlines. Overall, the DOT reported October 2020 was smooth sailing for most flights, with the passenger aviation industry reporting a 90 percent on-time rate. In addition, the baggage mishandling rate went down to 3.56 mishandled per 1,000 loaded. Part of this can be attributed to fewer flyers, as luggage loaded was down by nearly 60 percent.

Although fewer passengers flew due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it also meant a drop in those involuntarily denied boarding. Only 9,292 passengers were denied boarding an aircraft between July and September 2020, down from over 100,000 over the same period in 2019.

View Comments (3)

3 Comments

  1. MRM

    January 14, 2021 at 5:32 am

    United Airlines Refunds: Myself and another colleague booked group airfares to Anaheim for April 2020. United called ME in March to confirm travel or to assist with cancellation/refund. We got our refund in under 10 days.

    My colleague, with fewer in her group, had to call on four separate occasions to get their trip cancelled/refunded. After ffour months of waiting for the long-promised refund, she got her company’s (different than mine) legal team to draft a letter to United inquiring about the refund. It was done digitally within 24 hours after the letter was received by fax at United.

    So yeah, no shock that United’s up there; considering it was the exact same flight/type of tickets, the fact it took four months and a legal threat to get the refund? Talk about inconsistencies.

  2. schelsr

    January 14, 2021 at 5:49 am

    Sad testimony to US aviation: Far fewer opportunities to ‘miss the mark’, and you increase the ‘misses’. Why sensible folk are “NeverFrontier”…

  3. Hawkeyefan

    January 14, 2021 at 1:51 pm

    As the govt forces airlines to chase hysteria around, there can only be increased levels of complaints. Chaos does not equate to smooth running ops.

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