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Complaints From Airline Passengers Rose Last Year



From social distancing to wearing masks to cutbacks in service, and particularly in getting refunds, criticisms and complaints were up last year when it comes to airlines.

Dating back to the early months of the pandemic in April and May of 2020, complaints rose dramatically according to the annual Airline Quality Rating (AQR), a study of how major airlines in the U.S. performed over a one-year span.

Complaints rose by nearly 400 percent from 2019 to 2020, with almost 83 percent of complaints centered on issues with refunds for unused travel, compared to only six percent in 2019, researchers Dean Headley and Brent Bowen found, according to Fox Business.

“The airlines had a big challenge in working through refund issues presented by canceled travel plans, but most were able to respond and quell customer concerns in a timely manner,” Headley said.

Southwest ranked best among the other airlines in terms of complaints, with the lowest consumer complaint rate, at 2.64 per 100,000 passengers. Frontier, however, was ranked worst, with a rate of 49.30 per 100,000 passengers.

Overall, the entire airline industry saw a dramatic increase in complaints, jumping from 1.06 in 2019 to 11.75 per 100,000 passengers in 2020.

Other issues, including on-time performance, involuntary denied boardings and mishandled baggage, were not as heavily impacted by the pandemic because of the dramatic decrease in passengers.

“If you did travel by air in 2020, chances are good that you had good performance by the airline,” said Headley, emeritus associate professor of marketing at the W. Frank Barton School of Business at Wichita State University. “Better on-time performance, fewer mishandled bags and very few denied boardings were all to be expected with many fewer people flying in the system.”

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