Air Travel Consumer Report: Consumer Complaints Down from April, Still More Than 200 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 May 2022 for on-time performance, consumer complaints received, mishandled baggage, and mishandled wheelchairs and scooters. There was a 15% decline in complaints against airlines from April to May, however complaints are still 200 percent 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. 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. 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.
In May, the COVID-19 pandemic continued to result in significant changes to airline schedules and operations. The 590,957 flights operated in May 2022 were 86.9% of the 680,165 flights operated in pre-pandemic May 2019. Operated flights in May 2022 were up 14.1% year-over-year from the 517,709 flights operated in May 2021 and up 4.24% month-over-month from the 566,893 flights operated in April 2022.
In May 2022, the 10 marketing network carriers reported 602,950 scheduled domestic flights, 11,993 (2.0%) of which were canceled. In May 2021, the same airlines reported 520,059 scheduled domestic flights, 2350 (0.5%) of which were canceled. In April 2022, airlines scheduled 580,290 domestic flights, of which 13,397 (2.3%) were canceled.
May 2022 On-Time Arrival
In May 2022, reporting marketing carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 77.2% up from 76.0% in April 2022 and down from 77.9% in pre-pandemic May 2019. The year-to-date on-time arrival rate for 2022 is 76.5%.
Highest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates May 2022 (ATCR Table 1)
- Hawaiian Airlines – 86.0%
- Delta Air Lines Network – 80.7%
- Alaska Airlines Network – 80.2%
Lowest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates May 2022 (ATCR Table 1)
- Frontier Airlines – 64.6%
- Allegiant Air – 66.0%
- Spirit Airlines – 68.8%
May 2022 Flight Cancellations
In May 2022, reporting marketing carriers canceled 2.0% of their scheduled domestic flights, higher than the rate 0.5% in May 2021 and equal to the same rate 2.0% in pre-pandemic May 2019.
Lowest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights May 2022 (ATCR Table 6)
- Hawaiian Airlines – 0.1%
- Southwest Airlines – 0.7%
- Frontier Airlines – 1.4%
Highest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights May 2022 (ATCR Table 6)
- Delta Air Lines Network – 2.7%
- United Airlines Network – 2.4%
- JetBlue Airways – 2.3%
Complaints About Airline Service
In May 2022, DOT received 4,344 complaints about airline service from consumers, down 14.5% from the 5,079 complaints received in April 2022 and up 237.0% from the 1,289 complaints received in pre-pandemic May 2019.
Of the 4,344 complaints received in May 2022, 2,413 (55.5%) were against U.S. carriers, 1,472 (33.9%) were against foreign air carriers, and 457 (10.5%) were against travel companies.
Also, of the 4,344 complaints received in May 2022, 1,326 (30.5%) concerned refunds. The Department’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection continues to communicate with airlines and travel companies that receive refund complaints to ensure compliance with the refund requirements. Many passengers who had initially been denied refunds have received the required refunds. The Department has taken and will take enforcement action against noncompliant airlines and ticket agents as necessary.
Flight problems was the second highest category of the complaints received in May 2022. Of the 4,344 complaints received, 1,034 (23.8%) concerned cancellations, delays, or other deviations from airlines’ schedules. The Department’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection (OACP) routinely contacts airlines with widespread cancellations or delays to remind them of 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.
In May 2022, airlines reported 65 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights, compared to 33 tarmac delays reported in April 2022. In May 2022, airlines reported two tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights, compared to one tarmac delays reported in April 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 May 2022, reporting marketing carriers handled 42.0 million bags and posted a mishandled baggage rate of 0.56%, a higher rate for the April 2022 rate of 0.55% and lower rate for the pre-pandemic May 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 May 2022, reporting marketing carriers reported checking 72,332 wheelchairs and scooters and mishandling 1,110 for a rate of 1.53% mishandled wheelchairs and scooters, higher than the rate of 1.46% mishandled in April 2022 but lower than the rate of 1.54% mishandled in pre-pandemic May 2019.
Bumping/oversales data, unlike other air carrier data, are reported quarterly rather than monthly.
For the first quarter of 2022, the 10 U.S. reporting marketing carriers posted an involuntary denied boarding, or bumping, rate of 0.44 per 10,000 passengers, higher than the rate of 0.08 in the first quarter of 2021 and the rate of 0.32 in the first quarter of 2019.
Incidents Involving Animals
In May 2022, carriers reported zero incidents involving the death, injury, or loss of an animal while traveling by air, down from both the one report filed in April 2022 and the four reports filed in pre-pandemic May 2019.
Complaints About Treatment of Disabled Passengers
In May 2022, the Department received a total of 158 disability-related complaints, down from the 162 disability-related complaints received in April 2022, but up from the 76 complaints received in pre-pandemic May 2019.
Complaints About Discrimination
In May 2022, the Department received 52 complaints alleging discrimination – nine complaints regarding race, one complaint regarding ancestry/ethnicity, one complaint regarding color, and 41 complaints regarding religion. This is up from both the eight complaints received in April 2022 and the nine complaints recorded in pre-pandemic May 2019.
The increase in the number of complaints is largely a result of complaints filed against Lufthansa alleging that the carrier discriminated against Jewish passengers by denying them boarding on Lufthansa flight 1334 from Frankfurt to Budapest, which was a continuation of their journey from New York. 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.