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USDOT complaints about air travel continue to grow

Image for article titled The Worst Era Continues to Fly According to USDOT Complaints

Photo: Daniel Brenner/Bloomberg (beautiful pictures)

Passenger aviation has been irreparably altered by the COVID-19 pandemic and global travel restrictions implemented to combat it. Governments around the world have remove most barriers to travel, but US commercial carriers have yet to recover from their massive layoffs. Three years later, passenger service is still generally poor, according to the number of complaints received by the US Department of Transportation.

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Based on US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), passenger complaints are still at a record high. USDOT received about 102,500 complaints in 2020. Most were about refunds from foreign carriers due to travel restrictions. In 2022 there were over 47,590 complaints. The passenger complaint rate last year was five times higher than it was in pre-pandemic 2019. US airlines have had the most complaints against them since 1997.

Nearly a third of complaints are about delays and cancellations. This is not surprising, considering Southwest’s crisis in late December. However, Southwest Airlines is not the worst carrier. Frontier Airlines came last with 20.3 complaints per 100,000 passengers, followed by Spirit Airlines with 10.1 complaints per 100,000 passengers. JetBlue comes in third, one thing to keep in mind its potential fusion with Spirit.

Horizon Airlines and SkyWest Airlines, the regional airlines that operate for Alaska Airlines, have the best passenger complaints rates in 2022. Delta leads the country’s major airlines in that category.

US PIRG recommends USDOT to force airlines to treat passengers better. Consumer groups want the government to set minimum aviation standards. The law requires airlines to fully refund passengers if each flight is canceled for whatever reason, but the law has not been consistently enforced. PIRG also recommends that the legislation should claim compensation for delays as well as hotel and meal costs for stranded passengers.

Overall, competition in the market will discourage airlines from improving the flying experience for passengers. Federal regulators are the last hope for real change in passenger aviation.


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