Air travel complaints nearly tripled in May from same month in 2019


Travelers at LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in the Queens borough of New York, US, on Friday, July 2, 2022.

Angus Mordant | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Staffing shortages. Delays. Lost luggage. Massive lines. High fares. Air travelers in 2022 have plenty to complain about.

By many measures travel is worse than last year, but here’s how this year’s problems compare with before the pandemic:

  • The U.S. Department of Transportation recorded 2,413 complaints against U.S. airlines in May, compared with only 814 in the same month of 2019, according to a report published Wednesday.
  • Complaints relating to flight cancellations, delays and missed connections more than doubled since before the pandemic.
  • Compliments for these airlines rose to two received in May, up from one in May 2019.

This past May, just 77.2% of flights to U.S. airports arrived on time, down from 77.9% in May of 2019.

These numbers, the latest available, don’t include the chaotic summer rush which has forced airlines like United, Delta and others to trim their schedules. The difficulties also prompted an intervention from the FAA over congestion in some of the country’s busiest airspace. American and United executives will face investors Thursday when they discuss their operations on quarterly earnings calls.

Delta on Wednesday sent members of its frequent flyer program 10,000 miles because of recent disruptions if those customers flights were cancelled or delayed more than three hours for trips from May 1 through the first week week of July.

“While we cannot recover the time lost or anxiety caused, we are automatically depositing 10K miles toward your SkyMiles account as a commitment to do better for you going forward and restore the Delta Difference you know we are capable of,” said the e-mail, a copy of which was seen by CNBC.

The DOT also recorded a jump in complaints about baggage with over 516 baggage-related issues reported in May 2022, up from 190 three years ago. However, the rate of mishandled bags — lost, damaged, delayed, or pilfered — are actually lower than the same month of 2019, with 0.56 out of 100 enplaned bags in May, down from 0.63 per 100 bags in May three years earlier.

Mishandlings of wheelchairs and scooters across the two periods was similarly steady. While total mishandlings increased by 159 incidents, the percentage of such occurrences was similar, at about 1.53% in May.

The rate and number of mishandled bags as well as wheelchairs and scooters, however, was up from last year.

Read the May 2022 report here, and the May 2019 report here.

– CNBC’s Leslie Josephs contributed to this report.



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