Airline Consumer Complaints Up 46 Percent

airplaneIn January, the Department of Transportation (DOT) reports it received 1,368 complaints about airline service from consumers, up 46.3 percent from the 935 complaints filed in January 2012, and up 51.8 percent from the 901 received in December 2012. 

The DOT's Air Travel Consumer Report also said airlines reported two tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights, but no tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights in January.

The long domestic tarmac delays took place on January 27 and are under investigation by the Department. One of the tarmac delays took place on a flight departing Chicago O’Hare Airport and the other on a flight diverted to Bullhead City, Ariz.

The larger U.S. airlines have been required to file complete reports on their long tarmac delays for domestic flights since October 2008. Under a rule that took effect Aug. 23, 2011, all U.S. and foreign airlines operating at least one aircraft with 30 or more passenger seats must report lengthy tarmac delays at U.S. airports.

Highlights of the DOT report:

On-Time Performance: The reporting carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 81.0 percent in January, down from January 2012’s 83.7 percent mark, but up from December 2012’s 76.6 percent.

Cancellations: The reporting carriers canceled 1.5 percent of their scheduled domestic flights in January, equal to the 1.5 percent cancellation rate posted in January 2012, and down from the 1.6 percent rate posted in December 2012.

Chronically Delayed Flights: At the end of January, there were 12 flights that were chronically delayed – more than 30 minutes late more than 50 percent of the time – for two consecutive months. There were no chronically delayed flights for three consecutive months or more.  

Causes of Flight Delays: In January, the carriers filing on-time performance data reported that 5.73 percent of their flights were delayed by aviation system delays, compared to 6.19 percent in December; 6.02 percent by late-arriving aircraft, compared to 8.55 percent in December; 4.98 percent by factors within the airline’s control, such as maintenance or crew problems, compared to 6.21 percent in December; 0.55 percent by extreme weather, compared to 0.59 percent in December; and 0.04 percent for security reasons, compared to 0.05 percent in December.  

Weather is a factor in both the extreme-weather category and the aviation-system category, DOT notes. In January, 34.12 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, down 3.78 percent from January 2012, when 35.46 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, and up 3.99 percent from December when 32.81 percent of late flights were delayed by weather.

Mishandled Baggage: The U.S. carriers reporting flight delays and mishandled baggage data posted a mishandled baggage rate of 3.41 reports per 1,000 passengers in January, up from January 2012’s rate of 3.30, but down from December 2012’s rate of 4.15.

Incidents Involving Pets: In January, carriers reported three incidents involving the loss, death, or injury of pets while traveling by air, down from both the eight reports filed in January 2012 and the five reports filed in December 2012. January’s incidents involved three pet deaths.