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Consumer Complaints Against Airlines Rise More Than 300 Percent Above Pre-Pandemic Levels

by Aoife O’Riordan

Nov 2, 2022

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eFlyer Lead

The U.S. Department of Transportation released its Air Travel Consumer Report on airline operational data for April 2022. This data compiled factors like on-time performance; consumer complaints received; and mishandled luggage, wheelchairs and scooters.

April 2022 saw 566,893 flights operated domestically, compared to the 652,533 flights operated in pre-pandemic April 2019. That said, April 2022 flights were up 20.3 percent compared to April 2021.

In April 2022, the Department of Transportation received 5,079 complaints about airline service from consumers, up 14.8 percent from the 4,423 complaints received in March 2022. The number of complaints received in April 2022 is also up 321.5 percent from the mere 1,205 complaints received in April 2019. Of these 5,079 complaints in April 2022, 62.5 percent of them were against U.S. carriers, 27.7 against foreign air carriers and 9.8 percent against travel companies. Of these complaints, 32.3 percent concerned refunds.

Flight problems ranked the second-highest category of complaints received in April 2022. Almost 32 percent of the complaints concerned cancellations, delays or other deviations from airlines’ schedules.

Out of the 580,290 scheduled domestic flights for April 2022, 13,397 (2.3 percent) of them were canceled. The same airlines reported just 2,561 of the 472,936 (0.5 percent) canceled in April 2021. Reporting marketing carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 76 percent in April 2022, marking a decrease of 1.2 percent from March 2022 and a 3.8 percent decrease from April 2019. Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines reported the highest marketing on-time arrival rates, while JetBlue Airways, Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines had the lowest marketing on-time arrival rates for April 2022.

Reporting marketing carriers also canceled 2.3 percent of scheduled domestic flights, a 1.5 percent increase from March 2022, but lower than the pre-pandemic level of 2.4 percent in April 2019. Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines and American Airlines experienced the lowest number of canceled flights in April 2022. Spirit Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Alaska Airlines saw the highest rates of canceled flights for the same month, with 10.3 percent of Spirit Airlines flights canceled that month alone.

Airlines reported 33 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights in April 2022, a dramatic increase compared to seven tarmac delays reported in March 2022. The Department of Transportation also received 162 disability-related complaints in April 2022. By comparison, March 2022 saw 119 similar complaints. April 2019, meanwhile, saw only 80 complaints.

Read the Department of Transportation’s full report here.

Have you filed an airline complaint to the Department of Transportation in the last three years? What was your complaint? What issue in air travel concerns you most? What do you think airlines could do better to avoid these problems? Tell us your thoughts. Email us at [email protected]. Please include your full name and location.

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