WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation today released consumer complaint data about air travel for February 2023. The release of 2023 consumer complaint data has been delayed primarily because of the increase in consumer complaints received this calendar year compared to the prior two years. The Department is examining how best to review and process the increased number of consumer complaints received in 2023 so not to delay its reporting.
Complaints About Airline Service
In February 2023, DOT received 6,644 airline service complaints from consumers, down 38.6% from the 10,822 complaints received in January 2023, but up from the 3,735 complaints received in February 2022.
Of the 6,644 complaints received in February 2023, 4,405 (66.3%) were against U.S. carriers, 1,928 (29.0%) were against foreign air carriers, and 310 (4.7%) were against travel companies.
Flight problems was the highest category of complaints received in February 2023. Of the 6,644 complaints received, 2,115 (31.8%) concerned cancellations, delays, or other deviations from airlines’ schedules. Of the 2,115 flight problems complaints, 540 (25.5%) were against Southwest Airlines. DOT is continuing its rigorous and comprehensive investigation into Southwest’s meltdown where thousands of flights were canceled over the 2022 Christmas holiday and into the New Year.
DOT’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection (OACP) routinely monitors airlines’ operations to ensure that airlines are not engaging in unrealistic scheduling of flights. The Department is currently investigating several domestic airlines for 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.)
Refunds was the second highest category of the complaints received in February 2023. Of the
6,644 complaints received, 1,449 (21.8%) concerned refunds. OACP continues to communicate with airlines and travel companies that receive refund complaints to ensure compliance with the refund requirements.
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 helped return over two billion dollars in refunds to travelers. Additionally, the Department has issued historic enforcement actions against eleven airlines, which were fined over $14.5 million ($ 14.755 million). 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.
Finally, of the 6,644 complaints received in February 2023, 1,071 (16.1%) concerned baggage issues. Of the 1,071 baggage complaints, 566 (52.8%) were against U.S. carriers and 505 were against foreign air carriers (47.2%).
Complaints About Treatment of Passengers with Disabilities
In February 2023, the Department received a total of 188 disability-related complaints, down from the 222 disability-related complaints received in January 2023 and up from the 116 complaints received in February 2022.
Complaints About Discrimination
In February 2023, the Department received 20 complaints alleging discrimination – eight complaints regarding race, five complaints regarding national origin, three complaints regarding color, and four complaints regarding sexual discrimination. This is down from the 26 complaints received in January 2023 and up from the three complaints recorded in February 2022.
The Department is committed to combating all forms of discrimination and will act if it finds that any carrier violated Federal anti-discrimination statutes.
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.
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.
DOT is taking unprecedented action to ensure the traveling public is protected. Earlier this year, DOT announced plans to launch a new rulemaking that is aimed at requiring airlines to provide compensation and cover expenses for amenities such as meals, hotels, and rebooking when airlines are responsible for stranding passengers. After a two-year DOT push to improve the passenger experience, the 10 largest airlines guarantee meals and free rebooking on the same airline and nine guarantee hotel accommodations as part of the Department’s Airline Customer Service Dashboard. DOT expanded the dashboard last week at FlightRights.Gov to highlight which airlines currently offer cash compensation, provide travel credits or vouchers, or award frequent flyer miles when they cause flight delays or cancellations. DOT’s planned rulemaking would, if adopted in final, make passenger compensation and amenities mandatory so that travelers are taken care of when airlines cause flight disruptions.
Further, earlier this year, Secretary Buttigieg pressed airlines to commit to fee-free family seating. Before his urging, no airline committed to guaranteeing fee-free family seating. Now three airlines have committed to guaranteeing fee-free family seating, and DOT is pursuing a rulemaking that would require all airlines to do so. Secretary Buttigieg also submitted to Congress a legislative proposal to require that airlines provide fee-free family seating.
To further assist consumers in assessing airline family seating commitments, last month, DOT rolled out a new family seating dashboard that highlights the airlines that guarantee fee-free family seating, and those that do not, making it easier for parents to avoid paying junk fees to sit with their children when they fly.
Consumers may file air travel consumer or civil rights complaints online at http://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.
Official news published at https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/air-travel-consumer-report-february-2023-airline-complaint-data