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Complaints about airlines in April were 300% higher than in 2019

June 23, 2022
2 min read
Complaints about airlines in April were 300% higher than in 2019
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If you had a complaint about an airline in April, you were not alone.

New data out Thursday from the U.S. Department of Transportation show that complaints about airlines increased about 15% from March — and were up 321.5% from those received in April 2019.

In all, 5,079 complaints about airlines were received in April. That's up from 4,423 in March and 1,205 in April 2019. Of those complaints, 62.5% were against U.S. carriers, while 27.7% were against foreign carriers, and 9.8% were against travel companies.

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A plurality of complaints — 32.3% — were about refunds. Next was flight problems, such as delays and cancelations, which accounted for 30.5% of the complaints.

Rounding out the top five list were complaints about reservations/ticketing (9.8%), baggage issues (8.7%) and fares (8.1%).

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Refunds are often a top category because the DOT has significant power to compel airlines to issue them. Last year, DOT fined Air Canada $2 million for not properly refunding customers, ending an ongoing dispute between the airline and some customers that began during the earliest stages of the pandemic.

The spike in passenger unhappiness comes ahead of what's shaping up to be a rough summer for air travel. The airline industry has endured a particularly poor stretch operational reliability, and the system remains wobbly as demand soars and carriers try to ramp up operations since the depths of the pandemic. It all suggests that flight problem complaints could rise even further in future DOT reports, known as the Air Travel Consumer Report.

As for the cause, airlines are largely blaming the Federal Aviation Administration for air-traffic control staffing issues, while the federal government believes airlines are trying to operate unsustainable schedules. Because of a data reporting lag, it will be a few months before complaints resulting from recent issues will be reported out.

Related: Why do flight cancellations and delays keep happening?

Regardless of the reason, consumers often have a lot to lose during irregular operations. It can sometimes take days for airlines to recover — especially as flights are full and rebooking options are few. The Biden administration's Transportation Department has prioritized consumer protection — and is encouraging passengers to file reports with them.

Featured image by Bloomberg via Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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    The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

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  • Annual Fee

    $695
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
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Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.