Airline passenger complaints nearly double after high-profile incidents

The Transportation department reported 1,909 complaints for April 2017. There were only 1,123 in Apri last year.
By Vicky Webb | Jun 16, 2017
United Airlines wasn't the only airline that faced blowback from the public over its infamous use in April of armed security guards to drag a passenger from an overbooked flight. Airlines across the United States recorded 70% more complaints that month from the same month last year, according to a U.S. Department of Transportation statement Wednesday.

The Transportation department reported 1, 909 complaints for April 2017. There were only 1,123 in Apri last year.

This year's spike follows the widespread backlash against Incidents such as United's forced removal of David Dao from his seat on an April 9 flight. Viral videos that recorded Dao hitting his head and breaking his nose during the removal provoked a massive outcry against the airline and the practice of overbooking in general. But Paul Hudson, founder of the passenger rights group Flyersrights.org, said that the public backlash may have emboldened customers to speak out about other airline issues that displease them, and that this is why complaints are up.

"A lot of people have realized that things are bad and that they can complain about it," said Hudson.

Most complaints did not involve broken noses or head trauma, however. Cancellations and flight delays were the sources of most complaints, followed by overbooking.

Flight delays and cancellations also rose, according to the Transportation department report. It found that 78.5% of April 2017 flights arrived on time, down from 84.5% the prior April. And whereas 0.9% of April 2016 flights were cancelled, 1.9% of flights were cancelled in April 2017.

American Airlines was on the receiving end of the most complaints, with 324 for the month. Delta and United came in second and third with 297 and 265, respectively.

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