Airline Complaints Rise Nearly 25%

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A Transportation Department report released this week shows passengers logged 10,985 complaints against airlines in 2010 up from 8,821 in 2009, or an increase of 24.5%.

Most of the complaints stemmed from individual issues over service rather than operational issues, DOT spokesman Bill Mosley tells AOL Travel News.

"The complaints we receive tend to be fairly standardized – lost bags, tarmac delays and these things actually improved over last year. But by far most of the complaints were about airline service," he says.

The 18 largest carriers in the U.S. showed a .3% improvement in on-time service in 2010 over 2009, and incidents of missing or mishandled bags also decreased over that time period.

"The big problem areas are with reservations, ticketing mistakes, airport lines and phone queues, boarding issues, rude service, food or the lack of food, and overall inadequate service," says Mosely.

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He notes that the monthly and annual airline system reports that come out of his office stem from statistics received directly from the airlines as well as an online passenger complaint form consumers can file directly to the DOT.

This direct line to the DOT has been the biggest draw for airline passenger complaints, says Charlie Leocha, director of the Consumer Travel Alliance. He says the easy process is the big difference between 2010 and 2009.

"You used to have to make a phone call or write a letter. But now it is quick and direct and counted. I am surprised it is not more than 25%," Leocha says.

"Airline passengers are not in a good mood these days," Leocha adds. "They are hit by hidden fees when they get to the counter, packed planes in unprecedented load factors, invasive TSA security practices, poor communications between airlines and passengers. It's no wonder complaints are up (nearly) 25%."

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