Air travel complaints rise nearly 270% over pre-pandemic levels

FILE – Boeing 737 Max planes sit parked at the company’s manufacturing facility on Nov. 18, 2020, in Renton, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Air travel service complaints jumped nearly 270% from pre-pandemic levels in June 2019, according to the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) air travel consumer report released Friday.

The DOT received more than 5,800 service complaints in June, a nearly 270% increase from the more than 1,500 received in the same month in 2019. According to the report, there were more than 28,500 complaints at the DOT in the first six months of 2022, a 27.8% increase from the same period of 2021 and more than in the whole of 2019.

The DOT reported that from May to June, the number of service complaints increased by nearly 35%. More than half of the complaints received in June, about 58%, were against US companies.


More than 1,600 service complaints in June — nearly 29% — were related to cancellations, delays or other deviations from carrier schedules, the DOT said. About 24% of June’s complaints were about refunds.

Airlines have continued to suffer from flight disruptions caused by bad time, staff shortages and air traffic control problems this month. They have worked to combat disruptions by taking steps such as increased hiring and training and adjusting flight and crew schedules.

DOT ranked Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Hawaiian Airlines as the three marketing companies with the highest on-time arrival rates in June. The three marketing companies with the lowest were Allegiant Air, JetBlue and Frontier, according to the DOT.

Airlines canceled about 3% of domestic flights in June, compared to 1.6% in June 2021 and 2.1% in June 2019. The number of flights operated in June was about 86% of the number in June 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic. according to the DOT.

Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska Airlines and Frontier had the lowest marketing rates of canceled flights in June, while USDelta, and united had the highest, according to the DOT. United noted to FOX Business that it had the lowest cancellation rate in June (3.5%) among the big three carriers.

“Delta is focused on strong operational performance, including rapid and sustained recovery when factors such as weather and air traffic control programs impact our operations. Of the more than 20,000 Delta and Delta Connection operated over a weekend of as of late August, there were only 15 cancellations worldwide,” a Delta spokesperson told FOX Business.


Southwest Airlines scheduled the most passengers among US airlines while leading all marketing air carriers in overall customer satisfaction for June and year-to-date, as determined by the DOT report,” Southwest Airlines said in a statement to FOX Business. “We are proud that the records reflect the dedicated work of our employees to deliver our legendary Southwest hospitality every day.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg sent letters to 10 US airline CEOs in early August, calling the surge in flight disruptions across the country “unacceptable.”

Airlines for American, a trade association representing Alaska Airlines, American, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue and others, told FOX Business the airlines “strive to provide the highest level of customer service” and “want PASSENGERS to have a safe, seamless and positive travel experience.” Airlines are working with stakeholders to overcome a tight labor market and other challenges as they emerge from the peak of the pandemic, the trade association said.

The International Air Transport Association, Frontier, Allegiant, JetBlue and American did not respond to FOX Business’ request for comment by press time.

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