Air travel complaints up nearly 270% above pre-pandemic levels

FILE - Boeing 737 Max airplanes sit parked at the company's production facility on Nov. 18, 2020, in Renton, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Air travel service complaints jumped nearly 270% from pre-pandemic levels in June 2019, according to the Department of Transportation's (DOT) air travel consumer report released Friday.

The DOT received over 5,800 service complaints in June, a nearly 270% increase from the over 1,500 received in the same month in 2019.  According to the report, there were over 28,500 complaints to the DOT in the first six months of 2022, a jump of 27.8% from the same period in 2021 and more than in all of 2019.

The DOT reported that from May to June, the number of service complaints went up nearly 35%. More than half of the complaints received in June, about 58%, were against U.S. carriers.


Over 1,600 service complaints in June – nearly 29% – were related to flight cancelations, delays, or other deviations from the carriers' schedules, the DOT said. About 24% of the June complaints concerned refunds.

Airlines have continued to be plagued with flight disruptions caused by bad weather, staffing shortages, and air traffic control issues this month. They have been working to combat the disruptions by taking steps such as boosting hiring and training and adjusting flight and crew schedules.

The DOT ranked Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Hawaiian Airlines as the three marketing carriers with the highest on-time arrival rates in June. The three marketing carriers with the lowest were Allegiant Air, JetBlue, and Frontier, according to the DOT.

Airlines canceled about 3% of domestic flights in June, compared to 1.6% in June 2021 and 2.1% in June 2019. The number of flights operated in June was about 86% of the number in June 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the DOT.

Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Frontier had the lowest marketing carrier rates of canceled flights in June, while American, Delta, and United had the highest, according to the DOT. United noted to FOX Business that it had the lowest June cancelation rate (3.5%) among the three large carriers.

"Delta is focused on strong operational performance, including recovering quickly and resiliently when factors like weather and air traffic control programs affect our operation. Of the more than 20,000 Delta and Delta Connection operated during a recent weekend in August, there were only 15 cancelations worldwide," a spokesperson for Delta told FOX Business.


"Southwest Airlines has enplaned the most passengers among U.S. airlines while leading all marketing air carriers in overall customer satisfaction for June and year to date, as defined by the DOT’s report," Southwest Airlines said in a statement to FOX Business. "We are proud the data reflects the dedicated work of our Employees to deliver our legendary Southwest Hospitality each day."

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg sent letters to 10 U.S. airline CEOs earlier in August, calling the increase in flight disruptions across the country "unacceptable." 

Airlines for American, a trade association representing Alaska Airlines, American, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, and others, told FOX Business airlines "strive to provide the highest level of customer service" and "want travelers to have a safe, seamless and positive travel experience." Airlines are working with stakeholders to overcome a tight labor market and other challenges as they emerge from the height of the pandemic, the trade association said.

The International Air Transport Association, Frontier, Allegiant, JetBlue and American did not respond to FOX Business' request for comment by the time of publication.

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