Air Travel Consumer Report: August Consumer Complaints Up 6 Percent from July, More Than 320 Percent Above Pre-Pandemic Levels
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation today released its Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR) on airline operational data compiled for the month of August for on-time performance, consumer complaints received, mishandled baggage, and mishandled wheelchairs and scooters. There was a 6.0% increase in air travel service complaints from July to August, and complaints are more than 320% above pre-pandemic levels. The previous report from July showed a 16.5% increase from June to July, and complaints were more than 260% 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. During the summer, the Department rolled out a new airline customer service dashboard to help people/the public determine what they are owed when a flight is canceled or delayed because of an airline issue. Because of the creation of this dashboard and Secretary Buttigieg asking airlines to improve their service, nine airlines now guarantee meals and nine guarantee hotels. Previously, none of the ten largest U.S. airlines guaranteed meals or hotels when a significant delay or cancellation was within the airlines control.
The Department is taking other actions to address flight delays and cancellations, including 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 travel when their flights are cancelled or significantly changed.
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.
The 598,166 flights operated in August 2022 were 84.9% of the 704,553 flights operated in pre-pandemic August 2019. Operated flights in August 2022 were up 0.91% year-over-year from the 592,760 flights operated in August 2021 and down 1.6% month-over-month from the 607,657 flights operated in July 2022.
In August 2022, the 10 marketing network carriers reported 613,649 scheduled domestic flights, 15,483 (2.5%) of which were canceled. In August 2021, the same airlines reported 611,494 scheduled domestic flights, 18,734 (3.1%) of which were canceled. In July 2022, airlines scheduled 618,790 domestic flights, of which 11,133 (1.8%) were canceled. In August 2019, airlines scheduled 717,456 domestic flights, of which 12,903 (1.8%) were canceled.
August 2022 On-Time Arrival
In August 2022, reporting marketing carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 75.6% up from 74.9% in July 2022 and down from 77.6% in pre-pandemic August 2019. The year-to-date on-time arrival rate for 2022 is 75.8%.
Highest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates August 2022 (ATCR Table 1)
- Delta Air Lines Network – 82.9%
- Alaska Airlines Network – 82.3%
- Spirit Airlines – 81.6%
Lowest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates August 2022 (ATCR Table 1)
- JetBlue Airways – 65.9%
- Allegiant Air – 66.5%
- Southwest Airlines – 67.7%
August 2022 Flight Cancellations
In August 2022, reporting marketing carriers canceled 2.5% of their scheduled domestic flights, lower than the rate 3.1% in August 2021 and higher than the rate of 1.8% in pre-pandemic August 2019.
Lowest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights August 2022 (ATCR Table 6)
- Hawaiian Airlines – 0.1%
- Alaska Airlines Network – 0.5%
- Spirit Airlines – 0.9%
Highest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights August 2022 (ATCR Table 6)
- United Airlines Network – 3.6%
- American Airlines Network – 3.5%
- Southwest Airlines – 2.7%
Complaints About Airline Service
In August 2022, DOT received 7,243 complaints about airline service from consumers, up 6.0% from the 6,831 complaints received in July 2022 and up 322.8% from the 1,713 complaints received in pre-pandemic August 2019.
Of the 7,243 complaints received in August 2022, 4,052 (55.9%) were against U.S. carriers, 2,692 (37.2%) were against foreign air carriers, and 497 (6.9%) were against travel companies.
Flight problems was the highest category of the complaints received in August 2022. Of the 7,243 complaints received, 2,321 (32.0%) concerned cancellations, delays, or other deviations from airlines’ schedules. OACP routinely monitors airlines’ operations to ensure that airlines are not engaging in unrealistic scheduling of flights. OACP also 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, and remind them of their obligation to adhere to their 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.)
Baggage was the second highest category of the complaints received in August 2022. Of the 7,243 complaints received, 1,675 (23.1%) concerned baggage issues. Of 1,675 baggage complaints, 1079 were against foreign air carriers (64.4%) and 596 (35.6%) were against U.S. carriers. OACP has contacted the carriers that experienced significant spikes in the number of baggage complaints to obtain information on the reasons for the spikes and to ensure that airlines are complying with the baggage requirements, including reimbursing passengers for reasonable, verifiable and actual expenses that they may incur when their bags are delayed.
Also, of the 7,243 complaints received in August 2022, 1,432 (19.8%) concerned refunds. OACP continues to communicate with airlines and travel companies that receive refund complaints to ensure compliance with the refund requirements. Thousands of passengers who were initially denied refunds and contacted the Department have since received the required refunds. The Department has taken and will take enforcement action against noncompliant airlines and ticket agents as necessary. OACP is actively pursuing enforcement action against 10 airlines for extreme delays in providing refunds for flights the airlines canceled or significantly changed. OACP is also actively investigating the refund practices of additional airlines flying to, from, or within the United States. Last year, OACP assessed the largest fine in the Department’s history for consumer protection violations against a foreign air carrier for extreme delays in providing refunds to thousands of consumers for flights to or from the United States that the carrier canceled or significantly changed.
In August 2022, airlines reported 72 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights, compared to 17 tarmac delays reported in July 2022. In August 2022, airlines reported five tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights, compared to four tarmac delays reported in July 2022.
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.
Extended tarmac delays are investigated by the Department.
In August 2022, reporting marketing carriers handled 41.0 million bags and posted a mishandled baggage rate of 0.64%, equal to the July 2022 rate of 0.64% and higher than the pre-pandemic August 2019 rate of 0.61%.
In the previous three calendar year reports (2019 to 2021), 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 (i.e., per 100 bags enplaned). This is consistent with the manner that the mishandled wheelchairs and scooters rate is calculated and displayed.
Mishandled Wheelchairs and Scooters
In August 2022, reporting marketing carriers reported checking 67,840 wheelchairs and scooters and mishandling 1,057 for a rate of 1.56% mishandled wheelchairs and scooters, lower than the rate of 1.63% mishandled in July 2022 and lower than the rate of 1.58% mishandled in pre-pandemic August 2019.
Bumping/oversales data, unlike other air carrier data, are reported quarterly rather than monthly.
For the second quarter of 2022, the 10 U.S. 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 higher than the rate of 0.31 in the second quarter of 2019.
Incidents Involving Animals
In August 2022, carriers reported no incidents involving the death, injury, or loss of an animal while traveling by air, down from the two reports filed in both July 2022 and in pre-pandemic August 2019.
Complaints About Treatment of Disabled Passengers
In August 2022, the Department received a total of 195 disability-related complaints, down from the 248 disability-related complaints received in July 2022, but up from the 109 complaints received in pre-pandemic August 2019.
Complaints About Discrimination
In August 2022, the Department received 14 complaints alleging discrimination – 11 complaints regarding race, one complaint regarding ancestry/ethnicity, and two complaints regarding national origin. This is up from both the 13 complaints received in July 2022 and the 10 complaints recorded in pre-pandemic August 2019.
The Department is committed to combating all forms of discrimination and will act if it finds that any carrier 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, U.S. 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.