The number of complaints against airlines has skyrocketed over 300% as flights are cancelled during summer travel season

Travelers queue up move through the north security checkpoint in the main terminal of Denver International Airport
Travelers queue up move through the north security checkpoint in the main terminal of Denver International Airport, Thursday, May 26, 2022, in Denver.David Zalubowski/AP
  • In April, the US Department of Transportation received 5,079 complaints about airline service.

  • The number is up 14.8% from complaints received in March, and up 321.5% from pre-pandemic April 2019.

  • Of the complaints, 62.5% were against US carriers and 27.7% were against foreign air carriers.

Flight delays and cancellations are continuing to plague travelers in the US, and more customers are lodging formal complaints.

According to the US Department of Transportation's latest Air Travel Consumer Report for April 2022, the DOT received 5,079 complaints about airline service from travelers. This number is up from March 2022, which saw 4,423 complaints, and up 321.5% from before the pandemic, which saw 1,205 complaints in April 2019.

US carriers saw the most complaints, receiving 3,173 of the 5,079 complaints. Foreign air carriers saw 1,409 complaints, and travel companies had 479 complaints.

The complaints against airlines mostly concern refunds, cancellations, delays, and mishandled baggage.

Around 32% of the 5,079 complaints were about refunds. The DOT said its Office of Aviation Consumer Protection is communicating with airlines and travel companies to give passengers previously denied refunds. The Department also said it has taken and will continue to take action against airlines and ticket agents who don't comply with refund requirements.

Flight problems made up 30.5% of complaints, including cancellations, delays, or other schedule complications.

In April 2022, the report said 1o airlines reported 580,290 scheduled domestic flights — 13,397, or 2.3%, of which were cancelled. This number was higher than March 2022, which saw 9,108 of 590,542 flights get cancelled.

Pre-pandemic April 2019 saw a higher percentage of cancellations than April 2022, with 15,726 out of 668,259 flights getting cancelled, or 2.4% of flights.

The report said airlines are required to have a customer service plan to help passengers who have cancelled flights or misconnections.

The rate of mishandled baggage in April 2022 was 0.55% of 40 million bags, which was lower than 0.57% in March 2022, and even pre-pandemic April 2019 which saw 0.56% of bags being mishandled.

In response to the travel chaos, Senator Bernie Sanders recently wrote a letter to US Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, saying airlines should face a $27,500 fine per passenger for delays over two hours for domestic flights, and delays over three hours for international flights.

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