Stacey Leasca TRAVEL + LEISURE
Passenger Complaints Are Way Up After Airline Incidents
June 15, 2017
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  • Consumer anger against airlines is exponentially increasing, according to new data released by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

    Complaints rose to 1,909 in April, Reuters reported, accounting for a 70 percent year-over-year increase. The largest uptick in complaints appeared to increase following the release of a video showing a United Airlines employees dragging Dr. David Dao off his flight on April 9.

    “A lot of people have realized that things are bad and that they can complain about it,” Paul Hudson, founder of the passenger rights group, told the Los Angeles Times.

    However, United wasn’t the top contender when it came to the number of complaints. That award belongs to American Airlines, which received 324 complaints, followed by Delta Air Lines with 297 and United with 265, according to the Los Angeles Times. But, when it came to the highest rate of complaints per passenger, Spirit Airlines took the cake with 7.2 complaints for every 100,000 passengers, compared to 3.04 complaints for every 100,000 passengers on United Airlines.

    The majority of complaints, according to the report, were about “flight problems,” with 753 complains about cancelations and delays. In a distant second, with 241 complaints, was issues with baggage.

    “If airlines don’t get their act together, we are going to act, it is going to be one size fits all,” Bill Shuster, chairman of the House of Representatives’ transportation committee, said in a hearing in May. “Seize this opportunity because if you don’t, we’re going to come, and you’re not going to like it.”

    But, it appears airlines may be able to help themselves without the assistance of the government. In May, American Airlines announced it would be shrinking legroom by two full inches between seats on its Boeing 737 MAX planes. However, after hearing customer feedback, the airline changed course and promised to only shrink legroom by one inch.

    “It is clear that today, airline customers feel increasingly frustrated by their experiences and less valued when they fly,” a memo sent by American Airlines read. “We can be leaders in helping to turn around that perception, and that includes reviewing decisions that have significant impact on the flying experience.”