Complaints Against Airlines Rise Despite Fewer Lost Bags, Passengers Bumped

Even though airlines lost fewer passengers’ bags and bumped them off flights less often last year, people still found plenty to complain about. Figures from the U.S. Department of Transportation say that complaints against domestic and foreign service surged 5 percent in 2011, rising to 11,545 instances.

Airline passengers may not be getting more vocal. The rising number of complaints can be dismissed as just a function of more passengers having taken to the air in 2011 than in 2010. Even though the number of complaints increased, the actual rate of complaints per passenger dropped slightly.

The Wall Street Journal cites figures that paint a picture of generally improved service. Airlines mishandled the luggage of 3.4 passengers per 1,000, down from 3.5 per 1,000 in 2010. Involuntary bumps were down more significantly, from 1.09 per 10,000 passengers in 2010 to 0.81 per 10,000 last year.

There was a modest slip in on-time arrivals, which dropped to 79.6 percent in 2011 from 79.8 percent in 2010. The rate of canceled flights also increased a tenth of a percentage point, from 1.8 percent to 1.9 percent.

One conclusion you can pull from the figures is that customers will never be satisfied with any instances of lost luggage or overbooked flights and will continue to speak up even if airlines do a better job of eliminating the errors.

Lost Bags, Bumped Passengers Down in 2011, But Complaints About Airlines Up, DOT Says [The Wall Street Journal]


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  1. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Honestly curious how many complaints are attributed to TSA issues. I know many people don’t understand the separation between them.

    • Cicadymn says:

      I’m willing to bet a lot of people don’t complain about it because they see it as futile. The government is saying that their children and grandparents with colostomy bags need to be groped for freedom, and there’s nothing they can do to change that.

      More so complaining to the airport who is forced to comply with government regulations.

      • fs2k2isfun says:

        Or that if they complain they will be placed on a watch/no-fly list and have even bigger problems in the future.

    • Flik says:

      Or the TSA issues set them off on a bad mood, and things at the airline level that used to be trivial are now complaint-worthy. It does roll downhill, after all.

    • LabGnome says:

      This is the first thing I thought of so I can’t help but wonder.

  2. Beave says:

    Or maybe people have just realized that complaining does absolutely no good whatsoever. Airlines will blame and and everything on weather even though there’s not a storm cloud anywhere over the entire contenental US. 2, 3, 4 hour delays are unfortunately the norm. Flights to and from main hubs have gone down with the mergers. Flights between main hubs seem to never be on time, almost ever.

    The problem is, complaining really does no good and most of us know that. You want to fly from Atlanta to Chicago? If your plane leaves within an hour of the time it’s supposed to you’re lucky.

  3. dulcinea47 says:

    “mishandled the luggage of 3.4 passengers per 1,000, down from 3.5 per 1,000 in 2010”

    Pretty sure a tenth of a person improvement is nothing to brag about.

  4. Cat says:

    YOU want to complain…look at these shoes…
    I’ve only had them three weeks and the heels are worn right through!
    If you complain nothing happens…you might as well not bother.
    My back hurts and the middle of such a fine day and I’m sick and tired of this office…

  5. StarKillerX says:

    Wow, way to take a positive and turn it into a negative.

    The complaint rate decreases so let’s lead with the large number of complaints instead.

  6. ajv915 says:

    Since when is a “surge” a 5% increase. I wouldn’t call my annual raise a surge so why do I get to call this a surge?

    ….and from the article;
    As a percentage of passengers, the rate of complaints actually dropped a bit since there were slightly more total passengers on U.S. airlines last year than in 2010.

  7. Englishee Teacher says:

    What about the people who CAN’T file a complaint? A Chinese airline ripped my luggage open and I lost a $200 pair of glasses. The airline reps left hours before any of the passengers made it through customs, so I contacted them by email and they said I could only file a claim in person at the airport. So basically in order to file a claim, I would have to find out when a flight is expected, take a train back to NYC, get to the airline in the like 45 min window where they actually have someone there, file my claim, then spend another two hours getting back to where I was staying.

  8. Posthaus says:

    May be, it’s just because there are many, many factors as to why flying is a miserable experience other than overbooked flights and lost luggage.