Complaints about airlines in April were 300% higher than in 2019
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
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.
Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter.
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%).
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.
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 photo by Samuel Corum/Bloomberg via Getty Images.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees