What Airlines Treat You The Best (It’s Not Pretty For Some U.S. Airlines)?

February 27, 2023

The latest Air Travel Consumer Report is out and it shows that airlines have their work cut out for them if they want to please their passengers.

On-time arrivals and departure, luggage, and flight cancelations appear to be issues.

Airlines have work to do… lots

Overall, there’s some serious work to be done. Complaints were up more than double from the latest report vs. a year ago. The biggest complaint categories shake out like this:

  1. Refunds — about 30% of all complaints
  2. Flight problems (delays, etc.) 
  3. Baggage 
  4. Fares 
  5. Reservations

Here are some highlights ConsumerAffairs found interesting:

On-time arrivals. Getting somewhere on time is crucial and must be on the lips of every Delta pilot in that airline’s workforce. Its percentage of on-time arrivals was a domestic airline best at 85.5%. United was second at 83.9% and Southwest* was third at 81%. Bringing up the rear was Frontier with its flight’s landing when they were supposed to 64.6% of the time. *It’s important to note that these reports lag by a couple of months and Southwest’s holiday troubles were not included.

Baggage woes continue to grow. If you’ve flown lately, you’ve noticed that more and more travelers are bringing their bags with them in the cabin. They have a good reason, too. The report shows that the number of baggage-related complaints the Department of Transportation has received has quadrupled in the last year. 

When it came to “mishandled baggage” per 100 people on a flight, it was American at 0.76 bags per 100, then Alaska (.62), and JetBlue (.58). Allegiant had the fewest number of “mishandled baggage” complaints per 100 fliers with 0.15.

Sorry, you’re not getting on. When it comes to who’s not getting on a flight – “involuntary,” “denied boardings” – American, Southwest, and Frontier have some explaining to do. Each of those carriers drew complaints more than 1,000 times between July and September ‘22, with Frontier complaints jumping 64%, Southwest complaints jumping 57%, and American complaints 35% from the same period in ‘21.

One truly amazing metric was how Delta and Allegiant fared on the good side of the “involuntary,” “denied boarding” scoreboard. Out of 34,955,144 flights Delta put up during the period tracked, the airline suffered zero complaints regarding being denied boarding; and while Allegiant only put 397 flights in the air, it still had zero complaints, too.

Refund? What refund? When it came to problems in obtaining refunds for unused or lost tickets, fare adjustments, or bankruptcies, Frontier (236), American (146), and United (107) scored the most complaints. With the added effort American has put toward improving consumer perception about refunds, it probably hopes this is the last time it shows up near the top of this category.

“Not fair” fares! The report showed that when it came to fare issues such as discount fare conditions, Frontier scored the most complaints (104) among the major U.S. carriers, more than double what Spirit received (40), and about triple what American did (35). Delta Air Lines received 30 complaints about fare issues and Southwest 10 reported Consumer Affairs.

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