Air Travel Consumer Report: November Consumer Complaints Increase from October
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation today released its Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR) on airline operational data compiled for the month of November 2022 for on-time performance, consumer complaints, mishandled baggage, and mishandled wheelchairs and scooters. There was a 23% increase in air travel service complaints from October to November, after complaints decreased by 12% from September to October.
The ATCR is designed to assist consumers with information on the quality of services provided by airlines. DOT remains committed to ensuring airline passengers are treated fairly and is concerned about recent flight cancellations and flight disruptions. The Department is currently investigating four domestic airlines to ensure that they are not engaging in unrealistic scheduling of flights. Also, last summer, the Department rolled out a new airline customer service dashboard to help travelers determine what services they are owed when a flight is canceled or delayed because of an airline issue. Because of the creation of this dashboard and Secretary Buttigieg urging U.S. airlines to improve their service, the airlines made significant changes to their plans, which are now enforceable. Before DOT pressed airlines, none of them guaranteed meals or hotels when they were the cause of a cancellation or significant flight change. Today, all 10 large U.S. airlines commit to providing meals upon request when a controllable cancellation or delay results in passengers waiting for three hours or more for a new flight. In addition, nine of the 10 large U.S. airlines now promise to provide hotel accommodations upon request for any passenger affected by a controllable overnight delay or cancellation. A controllable cancellation or delay is a delay or cancellation caused by the airline.
DOT uses the data from the ATCR, consumer complaints, and other information it secures from the airlines to inform its enforcement activities and the adequacy of existing rules.
The 561,067 flights operated in November 2022 were 86.38% of the 649,511 flights operated in pre-pandemic November 2019. Operated flights in November 2022 were down 2.11% year-over-year from the 573,134 flights operated in November 2021 and down 4.98% month-over-month from 590,444 flights operated in October 2022.
In November 2022, the 10 marketing network carriers reported 567,507 scheduled domestic flights, 6,440 (1.1%) of which were canceled. In November 2021, the same airlines reported 576,693 scheduled domestic flights, 3,559 (0.6%) of which were canceled. In October 2022, airlines scheduled 595,322 domestic flights, of which 4,878 (0.8%) were canceled. In November 2019, airlines scheduled 655,072 domestic flights, of which 5,561 (0.9%) were canceled.
November 2022 On-Time Arrival
In November 2022, reporting marketing carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 80.0% down from 83.4% in October 2022 and down from 84.4% in pre-pandemic November 2019. The year-to-date on-time arrival rate for 2022 is 77.4%.
Highest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates November 2022 (ATCR Table 1)
- Delta Air Lines Network – 84.2%
- United Airlines Network – 82.2%
- Southwest Airlines – 81.0%
Lowest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates November 2022 (ATCR Table 1)
- Frontier Airlines – 64.6%
- Hawaiian Airlines – 66.1%
- Allegiant Air – 67.5%
November 2022 Flight Cancellations
In November 2022, reporting marketing carriers canceled 1.1% of their scheduled domestic flights, higher than the rate 0.8% in October 2022 and higher than the rate of 0.9% in pre-pandemic November 2019.
Lowest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights November 2022 (ATCR Table 6)
- Hawaiian Airlines – 0.8%
- Southwest Airlines – 0.9%
- Delta Airlines Network – 0.9%
Highest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights November 2022 (ATCR Table 6)
- Frontier Airlines – 2.6%
- Spirit Airlines – 1.9%
- JetBlue Airways – 1.9%
Complaints About Airline Service
In November 2022, DOT received 6,616 complaints about airline service from consumers, up 23.0% from the 5,379 complaints received in October 2022 and up 603.1% from the 941 complaints received in pre-pandemic November 2019.
Of the 6,616 complaints received in November 2022, 3,698 (55.9%) were against U.S. carriers, 2,413 (36.5%) were against foreign air carriers, and 502 (7.6%) were against travel companies.
Refunds was the highest category of the complaints received in November 2022. Of the 6,616 complaints received, 2,018 (30.5%) concerned refunds. OACP continues to communicate with airlines and travel companies that receive refund complaints to ensure compliance with the refund requirements. Tens of thousands of passengers who were initially denied refunds and contacted the Department have since received the required refunds. The Department has taken and will take enforcement action against noncompliant airlines and ticket agents as necessary. During the past two years, the Department has issued historic enforcement actions against eight airlines, which were fined nearly $12 million ($11.925 million) and collectively paid more than a billion dollars to people who were owed a refund due to a canceled or significantly changed flight. The fines issued last year for consumer protection violations were the largest in the history of OACP and are part of DOT’s ongoing work to ensure Americans are treated fairly.
Flight problems was the second highest category of the complaints received in November 2022. Of the 6,616 complaints received, 1,743 (26.3%) concerned cancellations, delays, or other deviations from airlines’ schedules. OACP routinely monitors airlines’ operations to ensure that airlines are not engaging in unrealistic scheduling of flights. OACP also contacts airlines with widespread cancellations or delays to make clear their obligation to promptly refund passengers who choose not to accept the alternative offered for a canceled or significantly changed flight. OACP also reminds airlines of their obligation to adhere to their customer service plan that identifies the services that the airline provides to mitigate passenger inconveniences resulting from flight cancellations and misconnections. The Department monitors airlines’ actions and reviews complaints that it receives against airlines to ensure that consumers’ rights are not violated. (Read more about airline consumers’ rights here.)
Also, of the 6,616 complaints received in November 2022, 852 (12.9%) concerned baggage issues. Of 852 baggage complaints, 479 were against foreign air carriers (56.2%) and 372 (43.7%) were against U.S. carriers. OACP has contacted the carriers that experienced significant spikes in the number of baggage complaints to obtain information on the reasons for the spikes and to ensure that airlines are complying with the baggage requirements, including reimbursing passengers for reasonable, verifiable, and actual expenses that they may incur when their bags are delayed.
In November 2022, airlines reported eight tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights, compared to zero tarmac delays reported in October 2022. In November 2022, airlines reported zero tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights, equal to zero tarmac delay reported in October 2022.
Airlines are required to have and adhere to assurances that they will not allow aircraft to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours for domestic flights and four hours for international flights without providing passengers the option to deplane, subject to exceptions related to safety, security, and Air Traffic Control related reasons. An exception also exists for departure delays if the airline begins to return the aircraft to a suitable disembarkation point to deplane passengers by those times.
Extended tarmac delays are investigated by the Department.
In November 2022, reporting marketing carriers handled 38.2 million bags and posted a mishandled baggage rate of 0.51%, a higher rate than the October 2022 rate of 0.49% and higher rate to the pre-pandemic November 2019 rate of 0.47%.
In the previous three calendar year reports (2019 to 2022), the Department calculated the mishandled baggage rate based on the number of mishandled bags per 1,000 checked bags. The Department is now displaying the mishandled baggage data as a percentage (i.e., per 100 bags enplaned). This is consistent with the manner that the mishandled wheelchairs and scooters rate is calculated and displayed.
Mishandled Wheelchairs and Scooters
In November 2022, reporting marketing carriers reported checking 63,550 wheelchairs and scooters and mishandling 941 for a rate of 1.48% mishandled wheelchairs and scooters, lower than the rate of 1.51% mishandled in October 2022 and higher than the rate of 1.42% mishandled in pre-pandemic November 2019.
Bumping/oversales data, unlike other air carrier data, are reported quarterly rather than monthly.
For the third quarter of 2022, the 10 U.S. reporting marketing carriers posted an involuntary denied boarding, or bumping, rate of 0.22 per 10,000 passengers, higher than the rate of 0.16 in the third quarter of 2021 and higher than the rate of 0.19 in the third quarter of 2019.
Incidents Involving Animals
In November 2022, carriers reported one incident involving the death, injury, or loss of an animal while traveling by air, down from the two reports filed in both October 2022 and in pre-pandemic November 2019. November 2022’s incident involved the death of one animal.
Complaints About Treatment of Disabled Passengers
In November 2022, the Department received a total of 166 disability-related complaints, down from the 206 disability-related complaints received in October 2022, but up from the 66 complaints received in pre-pandemic November 2019.
Complaints About Discrimination
In November 2022, the Department received 11 complaints alleging discrimination – five complaints regarding race, four complaints regarding national origin, one complaint regarding color, and one complaint regarding religion. This is down from the 16 complaints received in October 2022, but up from the six complaints recorded in pre-pandemic November 2019.
The Department is committed to combating all forms of discrimination and will act if it finds that any carrier violated Federal anti-discrimination statutes.
Consumers may file air travel consumer or civil rights complaints online at https://airconsumer.dot.gov/escomplaint/ConsumerForm.cfm or by voicemail at (202) 366-2220, or they may mail a complaint to the Aviation Consumer Protection Division, U.S. Department of Transportation, C-75, W96-432, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20590.
The ATCR and other aviation consumer matters of interest to the public can be found at https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer.