Every year the Department of Transportation (DOT) receives roughly 10,000 formal complaints against U.S. airlines. The average number of complaints reported to the DOT per airline is 1.29 per 100,000 passengers. Of all the major airlines, Southwest has held the title of fewest number of complaints for the last 5 years in a row and had only 0.34 complaints per 100,000 passengers last year. Here are the top ten airlines in the United States with the highest complaint rates:
0.63 complaints per 100,000 enplanements
JetBlue, headquartered at John F. Kennedy airport in New York, is one of the newest major airlines in the United States, having been founded in 1999. Currently Jet Blue has several focus cities which include Fort Laudedale, Logan International Airport in Boston, Long Beach Airport, Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Orlando International Airport. Despite having 192 complaints last year, they scored very well in an umber of categories. They only had 3 complaints related to oversales last year, and had the lowest number of flight problem related complaints of any major airline on this list. However, they did have a disproportionately high number of complaints related to baggage handling.
0.73 complaints per 100,000 enplanements
Based out of Dallas, Texas, AirTrain Airways is considered to be a low-cost airline and is a subsidy of Southwest Airlines. Of all the low-cost carriers, AirTran was rated the best and even beat some of the major airlines that are higher in this list. The major hub cities for AirTran are Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall Airport, General Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport, and Orlando. In total the airline received 130 complaints last year. The complaints were pretty well spaced out across all categories. Not a single category sticks out. In a way this a good thing, but on the other hand it doesn’t give the company much insight about what to focus on to improve their service.
0.80 complaints per 100,000 enplanements
Headquartered in St. George, Utha, SkyWest Airlines is a major regional carrier in the United States. In total, they received 217 formal complaints last year. The vast majority of them were related to aircraft problems, but they also had a high number of baggage complaints, and customer service complaints.
0.86 complaints per 100,000 enplanements
Endeavor Air is a wholly owned subsidy of Delta Airlines. Their main hubs are located in Detroit, Minneapolis-St. Paul, John F. Kennedy Airport, and LaGuardia. Last year Endeavor had a grand total of 113 complaints. Of those 113 complaints, nearly 75 percent were related to flight problems. This was the highest of any airline in this category.
1.42 complaints per 100,000 enplanements
Last year US Airways took part in a major merger with American Airlines creating the largest airline in the world. It was also announced earlier this year that US Airways would be leaving Star Alliance to join Oneworld as an affiliate of American Airlines. The newly formed combined airline will operate under the American Airline name and branding while maintaining existing US Airway hubs in Charlotte, Philadelphia, and Phoenix. US Airways had a total of 806 complaints last year. They had an abnormally high number of complaints relating to boarding the aircraft.
American Eagle Airlines (Envoy Air)
1.70 complaints per 100,000 enplanements
Operating as a wholly owned subsidy of American Airlines, American Eagles Airlines scores just marginally better than their parent company does. In total, American Eagle Airlines received 303 complaints last year. Their worst category, making up just over half of the total complaints they received, is related to flight problems. American Eagle Airlines actually had a lower than average complaint rate in all the other major categories.
1.99 complaints per 100,000 enplanements
The Fort Worth-based airline, American Airlines was the fourth worst in the rate of complaints last year. In total, American Airlines received 1730 formal complaints in 2013. Of those 1730 complaints, nearly one third of them were related to flight problems. In several cases, flight problems were so bad that they made national news. American Airlines also received 358 complaints relating to baggage handling, making them proportionally the worst of any of the rated airlines in this category.
2.14 complaints per 100,000 enplanements
United Airlines had the largest number of formal complaints filed against them of any airline in the United States with 1935 complaints filed last year. This is partly due to the fact United Airlines has such a high number of passengers. For the most part United Airlines had a below average to average number of complaints in most of the major categories, however, they were the worst of any U.S. airline in number of complaints relating to customer service, baggage, and customer discrimination. Of the 1935 complaints filed against the airline, 337 of them were related to customer service, 287 were related to baggage, and 14 were related to discrimination, which are proportionally much higher than other U.S. airlines in those categories.
3.09 complaints per 100,000 enplanements
Of all the major U.S. airlines, Frontier had the largest increase in number of complaints last year. Frontier had a total of 316 complaints filed against them last year. Of those 192 complaints, 48 of them were related to baggage and handling. One theory about why Frontier Airlines had such a large increase in the number of complaints compared to the previous year is related to the company’s choice of making Trenton, New Jersey one of their focus cities. Traditionally, the Trenton market has been rough on airlines.
9.44 complaints per 100,000 enplanements
Although Spirit Airlines was the industry leader in complaints last year, with nearly three times the number of complaints of any other U.S. airline, they were also the airline with the highest operating profit. It seems as though it is fairly obvious Spirit Airlines is willing to sacrifice amenities and customer service to offer lower prices and increase their margins. In total Spirit airlines received 1019 formal complaints from the Department of Transportation. Of those 1019 complaints, 199 were related to boarding the plane, 148 were related to baggage, and 109 were customer service complaints.
Source: CAP Airline Report
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