Air Travel Consumer Report: July Consumer Complaints Up from June, More Than 260 Percent Above Pre-Pandemic Levels
Flight Cancellations Drop From 3.1% in June to 1.8% in July
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation today released its Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR) on airline operational data compiled for the month of July for on-time performance, consumer complaints received, mishandled baggage, and mishandled wheelchairs and scooters. There was a 16.5% increase in air travel service complaints from June to July, and complaints are more than 260% above pre-pandemic levels. The previous report from June showed a 34.9% increase from May to June, and complaints were nearly 270% 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. Earlier this month, the Department rolled out a new airline customer service dashboard to help consumers 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 also 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 607,657 flights operated in July 2022 were 86.5% of the 702,876 flights operated in pre-pandemic July 2019. Operated flights in July 2022 were up 0.35% year-over-year from the 605,508 flights operated in July 2021 and up 4.1% month-over-month from the 583,584 flights operated in June 2022.
In July 2022, the 10 marketing network carriers reported 618,790 scheduled domestic flights, 11,133 (1.8%) of which were canceled, which marks a decrease in cancellations from June 2022 when 18,473 flights (3.1%) were canceled . In July 2021, the same airlines reported 615,703 scheduled domestic flights, 10,195 (1.7%) of which were canceled. In July 2019, airlines scheduled 717,684 domestic flights, of which 14,808 (2.1) were canceled.
July 2022 On-Time Arrival
In July 2022, reporting marketing carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 74.9% up from 73.5% in June 2022 and down from 76.9% in pre-pandemic July 2019. The year-to-date on-time arrival rate for 2022 is 75.8%.
Highest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates July 2022 (ATCR Table 1)
- Alaska Airlines Network – 82.6%
- Hawaiian Airlines – 80.7%
- Delta Air Lines Network - 80.0
Lowest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates July 2022 (ATCR Table 1)
- Allegiant Air – 60.9%
- JetBlue Airways – 67.4%
- Southwest Airlines – 69.1%
July 2022 Flight Cancellations
In July 2022, reporting marketing carriers canceled 1.8% of their scheduled domestic flights, higher than the rate 1.7% in July 2021 and lower than the rate of 2.1% in pre-pandemic July 2019 and 3.1% in June 2022.
Lowest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights July 2022 (ATCR Table 6)
- Hawaiian Airlines – 0.1%
- Spirit Airlines – 0.4%
- Alaska Airlines Network – 0.4%
Highest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights July 2022 (ATCR Table 6)
- American Airlines Network – 2.5%
- United Airlines Network – 2.0%
- JetBlue Airways – 1.8%
Complaints About Airline Service
In July 2022, DOT received 6,831 complaints about airline service from consumers, up 16.5% from the 5,862 complaints received in June 2022 and up 264.3% from the 1,875 complaints received in pre-pandemic July 2019.
Of the 6,831 complaints received in July 2022, 3,458 (50.6%) were against U.S. carriers, 2,958 (43.3%) were against foreign air carriers, and 414 (6.1%) were against travel companies.
Baggage was the highest category of the complaints received in July 2022. Of the 6,831 complaints received, 1,842 (27.0%) concerned baggage issues. Most of the baggage complaints are against foreign air carriers. The Department’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection (OACP) is looking further into this matter.
Flight problems was the second highest category of the complaints received in July 2022. Of the 6,831 complaints received, 1,812 (26.5%) concerned cancellations, delays, or other deviations from airlines’ schedules. 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 6,831 complaints received in July 2022, 1,416 (20.7%) 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 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. The Office 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 July 2022, airlines reported 17 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights, compared to 60 tarmac delays reported in June 2022. In July 2022, airlines reported four tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights, compared to zero tarmac delays reported in June 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 July 2022, reporting marketing carriers handled 43.0 million bags and posted a mishandled baggage rate of 0.64%, a lower rate than the June 2022 rate of 0.71% and a higher rate than the pre-pandemic July 2019 rate of 0.63%.
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 (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 July 2022, reporting marketing carriers reported checking 69,357 wheelchairs and scooters and mishandling 1,131 for a rate of 1.63% mishandled wheelchairs and scooters, lower than the rate of 1.68% mishandled in June 2022 and lower than the rate of 1.71% mishandled in pre-pandemic July 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 July 2022, carriers reported two incidents involving the death, injury, or loss of an animal while traveling by air, up from the one report filed in both June 2022 and in pre-pandemic July 2019. July 2022’s incidents involved the deaths of two animals.
Complaints About Treatment of Disabled Passengers
In July 2022, the Department received a total of 248 disability-related complaints, up from both the 177 disability-related complaints received in June 2022 and the 105 complaints received in pre-pandemic July 2019.
Complaints About Discrimination
In July 2022, the Department received 13 complaints alleging discrimination – five complaints regarding race, three complaints regarding national origin, two complaints regarding color, and three complaints regarding religion. This is down from the 15 complaints received in June 2022, but up from the 12 complaints recorded in pre-pandemic July 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.