Cancellations, delays top list of complaints against airlines, report finds

The U.S. Department of Transportation has a full list of passenger rights available on their website
Published: May. 17, 2023 at 4:42 PM EDT
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(InvestigateTV) — Consumer complaints about air travel have nearly quadrupled compared to 2019, despite fewer passengers flying on U.S. airlines last year than in pre-pandemic levels, a recent report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) found.

“For 2022, there were 77,000 total complaints. Which is the second largest number, dwarfed only by 2020 when there were 100,000 complaints,” Teresa Murray, the author of “The Plane Truth,” explained. “And most of those were about refunds when everybody’s flights were getting canceled at the beginning of the pandemic.”

Murray’s report analyzed data from the Department of Transportation (DOT) and categorized consumer complaints against 17 airlines.

The report showed that Frontier had the most complaints per 100,000 boarded passengers, followed by Spirit Airlines and JetBlue Airways.

“This is very discouraging and this should be a huge wake up call for the airline industry as a whole!” Murray said. “That, you know, we are not making our customers happy.”

Murray shared that out of all the complaints in 2022, cancellations, delays, and missed connections topped the list.

The report also looked at complaints from passengers with disabilities.

“The worst for incidents with wheelchairs and scooters were Spirit and Jet Blue,” Murray said. “And the best ones that had the fewest incidents with damaged wheelchairs or scooters were Allegiant, Endeavor and Delta.”

Murray said it’s important for people know their rights before they even arrive at the airport.

“By federal law, if you are bumped involuntarily from a flight--you are entitled to set levels of compensation,” she explained. “So, if you’re going to be delayed getting another flight – by more than an hour – so if it’s an hour to two hours, in addition to the rebooking, you’re entitled to up to $775. And then if you’re delayed more than two hours, you’re entitled to up to $1,500.”

Murray advised passengers to understand their rights. The DOT has a dashboard where you can find out everything from consumer protection to enforcement orders. You can also file a complaint.

We reached out to all 17 airlines in this study. Here is a full list of their statements: