Air Travel Consumer Report: Consumer Complaints Up from May, Nearly 270 Percent Above Pre-Pandemic Levels

WASHINGTON – The US Department of Transportation today released its Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR) on airline operational data compiled for the month of June and for the second quarter of 2022 for on-time performance, consumer complaints received, mishandled baggage, and mishandled wheelchairs and scooters. There was a 34.9% increase in air travel service complaints from May to June, and complaints are nearly 270 percent above pre-pandemic levels.

The ATCR is designed to assist consumers with information on the quality of services provided by airlines. DOT remains committed to ensuring airline passengers are treated fairly and is concerned about recent flight cancellations and flight disruptions. The Department’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection (OACP) is monitoring airlines’ operations to ensure that airlines are not engaging in unrealistic scheduling of flights and are complying with aviation consumer protection requirements. This includes ensuring consumers receive prompt refunds if they are no longer interested in continuing their journey when their flights are canceled or significantly changed.

Also, last week, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg sent a letter to US airlines challenging airlines to improve their customer service plans and announced that the Department will create an interactive dashboard before Labor Day to make it easier for the traveling public to determine the services such as hotels and meals that would be provided to them when the cause of a cancellation or a lengthy delay was due to circumstances within the airline’s control.

DOT uses the data from the ATCR, consumer complaints, and other information it secures from the airlines to inform its enforcement activities and the adequacy of existing rules.

Flight Operations

The 583,584 flights operated in June 2022 were 85.8% of the 679,802 flights operated in pre-pandemic June 2019. Operated flights in June 2022 were up 3.4% year-over-year from the 564,583 flights operated in June 2021 and down 1.3% month-over-year. over-month from the 590,957 flights operated in May 2022.

In June 2022, the 10 marketing network carriers reported 602,057 scheduled domestic flights, 18,473 (3.1%) of which were cancelled. In June 2021, the same airlines reported 573,779 scheduled domestic flights, 9,196 (1.6%) of which were cancelled. In May 2022, airlines scheduled 602,950 domestic flights, of which 11,993 (2.0%) were cancelled. In June 2019, airlines scheduled 694,469 domestic flights, of which 14,667 (2.1%) were cancelled.

June 2022 On-Time Arrival

In June 2022, reporting marketing carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 73.5% down from 77.2% in May 2022 and up from 73.3% in pre-pandemic June 2019. The year-to-date on-time arrival rate for 2022 is 75.9%.

Highest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates June 2022 (ATCR Table 1)

  1. Alaska Airlines Network – 78.7%
  2. Delta Air Lines Network – 78.4%
  3. Hawaiian Airlines – 77.2%

Lowest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates June 2022 (ATCR Table 1)

  1. Allegiant Air – 59.0%
  2. JetBlue Airways – 61.3%
  3. Frontier Airlines – 69.5%

For the first six months of 2022, the reporting marketing carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 75.94%, down from 77.41% for the same period in pre-pandemic 2019.

June 2022 Flight Cancellations

In June 2022, reporting marketing carriers canceled 3.1% of their scheduled domestic flights, higher than the rate of 1.6% in June 2021 and higher than the rate of 2.1% in pre-pandemic June 2019.

Lowest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights June 2022 (ATCR Table 6)

  1. Hawaiian Airlines – 0.1%
  2. Alaska Airlines Network – 0.7%
  3. Frontier Airlines – 1.1%

Highest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights June 2022 (ATCR Table 6)

  1. American Airlines Network – 4.4%
  2. Delta Air Lines Network – 3.9%
  3. United Airlines Network – 3.5%

For the first six months of 2022, the reporting marketing carriers posted a cancellation rate of 3.2%, up from 2.4% for the same period in pre-pandemic 2019.

Complaints About Airline Service

In June 2022, DOT received 5,862 complaints about airline service from consumers, up 34.9% from the 4,344 complaints received in May 2022 and up 269.6% from the 1,586 complaints received in pre-pandemic June 2019.

For the first six months of 2022, the Department received 28,550 complaints, up 27.8% from the 22,336 filed during the first six months of 2021 and more than the entire year of 2019.

Of the 5,862 complaints received in June 2022, 3,382 (57.7%) were against US carriers, 2,020 (34.5%) were against foreign air carriers, and 460 (7.8%) were against travel companies.

Flight problems were the highest category of the complaints received in June 2022. Of the 5,862 complaints received, 1,686 (28.8%) concerned cancellations, delays, or other deviations from airlines’ schedules. The Department’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection (OACP) routinely contacts airlines with widespread cancellations or delays to make clear their obligation to promptly refund passengers who choose not to accept the alternative offered for a canceled or significantly changed flight. Airlines are also required to have and adhere to a customer service plan that identifies the services that the airline provides to mitigate passenger inconveniences resulting from flight cancellations and misconnections. The Department monitors airlines’ actions and reviews complaints that it receives against airlines to ensure that consumers’ rights are not violated. (Read more about airline consumers’ rights here.)

Also, of the 5,862 complaints received in June 2022, 1,435 (24.5%) concerned refunds. The Department’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection (OACP) continues to communicate with airlines and travel companies that receive refund complaints to ensure compliance with the refund requirements. Many passengers who were initially denied refunds have since received the required refunds. The Department has taken and will take enforcement action against non-compliant airlines and ticket agents as necessary. OACP recently concluded its investigation of 10 airlines and is pursuing enforcement action against them for extreme delays in providing refunds for flights the airlines canceled or significantly changed. The Office is also actively investigating the refund practices of additional airlines flying to, from, or within the United States.

Tarmac Delays

In June 2022, airlines reported 60 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights, compared to 65 tarmac delays reported in May 2022 and 48 tarmac delays reported in June 2019. In June 2022, airlines reported zero tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights, compared to two tarmac delays reported in May 2022 and two tarmac delays reported in June 2019.

Airlines are required to have and adhere to assurances that they will not allow aircraft to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours for domestic flights and four hours for international flights without providing passengers the option to deplane, subject to exceptions related to safety, security , and Air Traffic Control related reasons. An exception also exists for departure delays if the airline begins to return the aircraft to a suitable disembarkation point to deplane passengers by those times.

The Department investigates extended tarmac delays.

Mishandled Baggage

In June 2022, reporting marketing carriers handled 43 million bags and posted a mishandled baggage rate of 0.71%, a higher rate for the May 2022 rate of 0.56% and equal to the pre-pandemic June 2019 rate of 0.71%.

For the second quarter of 2022, the carriers posted a mishandled baggage rate of 0.63%, higher than the second quarter 2019 rate of 0.61%.

In the previous three calendar year reports (2019 to 2022), the Department calculated the mishandled baggage rate based on the number of mishandled bags per 1,000 checked bags. The Department is now displaying the mishandled baggage data as a percentage (ie, per 100 bags enplaned). This is consistent with the manner in which the mishandled wheelchairs and scooters rate is calculated and displayed.

Mishandled Wheelchairs and Scooters

In June 2022, reporting marketing carriers reported checking 68,229 wheelchairs and scooters and mishandling 1,145 for a rate of 1.68% mishandled wheelchairs and scooters, higher than the rate of 1.53% mishandled in May 2022 and the rate of 1.54% mishandled in pre-pandemic June 2019

For the second quarter of 2022, the carriers posted a mishandled wheelchair and scooter rate of 1.52%, lower than the second quarter 2019 rate of 1.62%.

Bumping/Oversales

Bumping/oversales data, unlike other air carrier data, are reported quarterly rather than monthly.

For the second quarter of 2022, the 10 US reporting marketing carriers posted an involuntary denied boarding, or bumping, rate of 0.36 per 10,000 passengers, higher than the rate of 0.17 in the second quarter of 2021 and the rate of 0.31 in the second quarter of 2019.

Incidents Involving Animals

In June 2022, carriers reported one incident involving the death, injury, or loss of an animal while traveling by air, up from the zero reports filed in May 2022, but down from the two reports filed in pre-pandemic June 2019. June 2022’s incident involved the death of one animal.

Complaints About Treatment of Disabled Passengers

In June 2022, the Department received a total of 177 disability-related complaints, up from both the 158 disability-related complaints received in May 2022 and the 70 complaints received in pre-pandemic June 2019.

For the first six months of 2022, the Department received 886 disability-related complaints, up from the total of 474 filed during the first six months of 2021.

Complaints About Discrimination

In June 2022, the Department received 15 complaints alleging discrimination – nine complaints regarding race, one complaint regarding national origin, three complaints regarding color, one complaint regarding religion, and one complaint regarding sexual discrimination. This is down from the 52 complaints received in May 2022, but up from the 10 complaints recorded in pre-pandemic June 2019.

For the first six months of 2022, the Department received 102 discrimination complaints – 41 complaints regarding race, two complaints regarding ancestry/ethnicity, six complaints regarding national origin, seven complaints regarding color, 43 complaints regarding religion, two complaints regarding sexual discrimination, and one complaint categorized as “other.” This is up from the total of 59 filed during the first six months of 2021.

The Department is committed to combating all forms of discrimination and will act if it finds that any carrier has violated Federal anti-discrimination statutes.

Consumers may file air travel consumer or civil rights complaints online at http://airconsumer.dot.gov/escomplaint/ConsumerForm.cfm or by voicemail at (202) 366-2220, or they may mail a complaint to the Aviation Consumer Protection Division , US Department of Transportation, C-75, W96-432, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20590.

The ATCR and other aviation consumer matters of interest to the public can be found at https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer.

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