The Department of Transportation released the latest data on passenger complaints against airlines on Friday, and the numbers are pretty clear: travelers were most frustrated in the month of June with delays and cancellations.
DOT received almost 35% more complaints overall in June than it did in the previous month – about 270% more grumbling than what was normal before the pandemic.
More than a quarter of the 5,862 complaints the department received in June were related to flight delays, cancellations or other schedule deviations.
“DOT remains committed to ensuring airline passengers are treated fairly and is concerned about recent flight cancellations and flight disruptions,” The department said in a statement. “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.”
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The high volume of reliability-related complaints reflected the fact that airlines operated fewer flights in June than May, with more than 3% of domestic flights canceled according to the June report.
American, Delta and United had the most cancellations in June, cutting 4.4%, 3.9% and 3.5% of their schedules, including flights operated by their regional affiliates.
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Hawaiian, Alaska and Frontier had the fewest cancellations at 0.1%, 0.7% and 1.1% of their schedules.
Alaska Airlines was also the most on-time carrier in June, with nearly 80% of its flights arriving on schedule. Allegiant Air, meanwhile, had the most delays. Almost 40% of its flights were late in June.
DOT also received a high volume of complaints related to airfare refunds in June – almost 25% of responses were on this topic.
Rules around refunds can be confusing for passengers, but the department is working to clarify when travelers are entitled to their money back. In the meantime, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg recently announced that the department would roll out a dashboard before Labor Day to help travelers figure out when they’re entitled to a refund from their airline.
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“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,” DOT said in a statement. “Many passengers who were initially denied refunds have since received the required refunds. The Department has taken and will take enforcement action against noncompliant airlines and ticket agents as necessary.”
Passengers with disabilities
Complaints from passengers with disabilities rose in June, with DOT reporting 177 complaints about the treatment of disabled passengers compared to 158 in May. Passengers also reported that airlines mishandled 1,145 wheelchairs and scooters in June, about 1.68% of the total number carried, and another increase from the May totals.
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DOT reported higher instances of mishandled baggage in June compared to May and a relatively high rate (0.36 per 10,000 passengers) of involuntary denied boarding. The department also received 15 complaints related to discrimination and one complaint about the death of an animal in transit.