Passenger Complaints Soar: How Did U.S. Airlines Fare?

Published: 02-24-2016
How did U.S. airlines fare in 2015?

The Department of Transportation released its Air Travel Consumer Report for 2015, which revealed a major decline in the quality of service provided by airlines.

Foreign and domestic passengers voiced their displeasure with a total of 20,170 complaints in 2015, eclipsing 2014’s total of 15,539 by over 30 percent. U.S. airlines didn’t fare any better, with total complaints jumping from 11,365 in 2014 to 15,260 2015 -- an increase of 34 percent.

Of the U.S. airlines, Alaska Airlines received the fewest number of complaints per passenger for the second year in a row, posting a rate of .5 complaints per 100,000 passengers. On the other hand Spirit Airlines was ranked last by a large margin, receiving 11.73 complaints per 100,000 passengers.

American Airlines and Frontier Airlines both saw the biggest drop-offs from the previous year, albeit for different reasons. Per 100,000 passengers, American saw a 74% increase in complaints (from 1.93 to 3.36), which is likely due to the merger with US Airways, and the complications brought by the conjoined reservation systems. Frontier’s transformation into becoming a low-cost carrier à la Spirit has been a financial success, but its business model continues to frustrate customers. Frontier’s rate of complaints more than doubled, from 3.92 to 7.86.

Although Spirit and Frontier are sacrificing customer satisfaction for their low-cost model, American will be looking to bounce back in 2016 as the complications from the merger subsides.

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