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]