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Complaints against airlines continue to soar

April 11, 2013|By Hugo Martin
  • Southwest customer service supervisors field a passenger's complaint.
Southwest customer service supervisors field a passenger's complaint. (Juana Arias / Washington…)

The nation's airlines reported more delayed flights and a higher rate of mishandled luggage in February while complaints by passengers jumped nearly 30%.

Meanwhile, complaints against airport security agents dropped slightly.

Airlines reported an on-time arrival rate of 79.6% in February, compared with an 86.2% rate in the same month in 2012, according to statistics released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The rate of delayed or mishandled bags grew to three bags for every 1,000 passengers in February from a rate of 2.64 bags in the same month last year, according to the federal agency.

Complaints against the airline industry jumped to 899 in February, a 30% increase over the 693 complaints in the same month in 2012, according to federal statistics.

Most of the complaints involved customer service or problems with reservations, ticketing, boarding or baggage.

A trade group for the nation's airlines said complaints against carriers are still relatively low compared with other transportation systems, such as buses and rail lines.

But aviation experts say passengers probably file up to four times as many complaints directly with airlines than they do with the Department of Transportation.

Meanwhile, complaints against the Transportation Security Administration remained low, with 693 gripes filed in February, down from 721 complaints in the same month last year.

With more than 14 million passengers screened in February, that's a rate of about one complaint for every 20,000 passengers.

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