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Consumer Complaints Against U.S. Airlines Increase Sevenfold

September 05, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Consumers filed 6,822 complaints with the government about U.S. airlines in August, nearly a sevenfold increase over the same month a year ago, the Transportation Department reported Friday.

Northwest Airlines had the worst record of the carriers examined, accounting for 1,585 of the complaints, while Continental Airlines ranked second with 1,343 and Eastern Airlines third with 913.

United Air Lines was fourth on the complaint list with 607, followed by Trans World Airlines with 606 and American Airlines with 398.

In August, 1986, the department registered 1,041 complaints against American carriers. Two months ago, in July, the total was 5,995.

The department attributed many of the problems to two factors: the airline mergers in recent months and their resulting problems, and the publicity being focused on airline problems.

But a spokesman for the airline industry added another explanation: the need for more airports and an expanded, modernized air traffic control system.

"We need more capacity in the system," said Stephen Hayes, a spokesman for the Air Transport Assn. "The airlines are growing in response to demand, but the airports and air traffic system are not growing to keep pace."

Overall, the department reported receiving 7,280 complaints about the airline industry, including problems with U.S. and foreign carriers, travel agents, tour operators and other companies.

The greatest number of complaints--3,311--were about flight problems such as cancellations or delays. Problems with lost, damaged or delayed baggage ranked second at 1,134.

The department announced Wednesday that by the end of the year the 14 largest airlines will be required to report each month on delays and mishandled luggage.

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