Passengers tell US government: Air travel is getting worse | Aviation News

Passenger complaints to the US government are at their highest since the Covid pandemic, when airlines were slow to refund money.

Air travel became even more miserable last year if one measured the number of consumer complaints filed with the United States government.

The Transport Department said on Friday that it received nearly 97,000 complaints in 2023, up by about 86,000 from the previous year. The department said the complaints were so many that it took them until July to sort through the cases filed and compile the data.

This is the highest number of consumer complaints against airlines since 2020, when airlines delayed giving refunds to customers after air travel shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The rise in complaints came even as airlines canceled far fewer U.S. flights — 116,700 last year, or 1.2 percent of the total, compared with about 210,500, or 2.3 percent, in 2022, according to FlightAware data. However, delays remained much higher last year, accounting for about 21 percent of all flights.

More than two-thirds of all complaints last year were about U.S. airlines, but a quarter were about foreign airlines. Most of the rest were about travel agents and tour operators.

Complaints about the treatment of passengers with disabilities increased by more than a quarter compared to 2022. Discrimination complaints, though fewer in number, also increased sharply. Most complaints were about race or national origin.

Airlines receive a huge number of complaints from passengers who don't know how to complain to the government or don't want to bother, but airlines don't release those figures.

The Transportation Department is modernizing its complaint filing system, which the agency says will help it better oversee the airline industry. However, the department currently releases complaint numbers several months late. It did not release statistics for the second half of 2023 until Friday.

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