Passengers to US government: Air travel getting worse | Aviation news

The number of traveler complaints to the U.S. government is at its highest since the COVID pandemic, when airlines were slow to refund airfares.

Over the past year, air travel has gotten even worse, as evidenced by the number of consumer complaints filed with the U.S. government.

The Department of Transportation said Friday it received nearly 97,000 complaints in 2023, up from about 86,000 the year before. The department said there were so many complaints that it took until July to sort through the files and compile the numbers.

That’s the highest number of consumer complaints about airlines since 2020, when airlines were slow to refund customers after air travel ground to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The increase in complaints came even as airlines canceled far fewer U.S. flights — 116,700, or 1.2 percent of the total, last year, compared with about 210,500, or 2.3 percent, in 2022, according to FlightAware data. Delays, however, remained stubbornly high last year, at 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. The rest were mostly about travel agents and tour operators.

Complaints about the treatment of passengers with disabilities rose by more than a quarter compared to 2022. Complaints about discrimination, while small in number, also rose sharply, with most of them based on race or national origin.

Airlines receive many more complaints from travelers who don’t know how to file a complaint with the government or don’t bother. However, the airlines don’t disclose these numbers.

The Department of Transportation is modernizing its complaints system, which the agency says will help it better oversee the aviation industry. However, the department is many months late in publishing complaint figures. It only released figures for the second half of 2023 on Friday.

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