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Apart from low travel demand in 2020, another major issue faced by airlines is the number of customer complaints during the start of the pandemic. The majority of airline complaints happened in April and May according to Airline Quality Rating (AQR). Comparing airline complaints from 2019 and 2020, 2020 has 400% more complaints.

83% of traveler complaints revolve around refunds. In 2019, that only comprises 6% of the total complaints. According to researcher Dean Headley, “airlines had a big challenge in working through refund issues presented by canceled travel plans”.

Which Airline Had the Worst Number of Airline Complaints?

Frontier had the worst ranking with a  rate of 49.3 per 100,000 passengers. Southwest, on the other hand, had the best performance with a complaint rate of just 2.64 per 100,000 passengers.

However, it doesn’t mean that Southwest did it perfectly. Apart from customer complaints, Southwest recently had an issue with one of their flight attendants. Their flight attendant blamed Southwest’s training for her husband’s COVID19 death. According to the flight attendant, the safety protocols used on passengers weren’t present during their training.

Apart from refund issues, other common airline complaints include denied boardings, mishandled baggage, and on-time performance. However, if you will look at the number, these issues weren’t that affected by the pandemic.

Loss in March 2020

You can blame airline complaints in April 2020 to be partly responsible for the dramatic loss of passengers throughout the year. Domestic passengers in 2020 were 40% lower than the industry’s performance in 2019.

These days, domestic travel is picking up. More people are now comfortable traveling given the current US vaccination rate. Airlines are now hiring to expand their operations or calling their furloughed staff. Headley said that “at the pace people are returning to the airways, it does not seem that demand will be a problem”. Headley added that he is sure that “airlines will do their best to get the domestic and international air travel system ready to serve travelers”.


John Michael Jayme
John Michael Jayme
John Michael Jayme is a Travel Analyst for The Jet Set. He writes about news and events affecting the travel industry.






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