Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported that consumer complaints about airline service nationwide declined 12.2 percent the first six months of this year, when compared with the same period last year.
This is a year where we’ve seen stranded travelers sleeping on cots at busy Chicago O’Hare International Airport, and after many airports this spring and summer nationwide went into meltdown mode due to technical glitches at Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines.
The latter wasn’t so much the case at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, but we experienced our own dysfunction during spring break when long lines at security checkpoints caused some to miss their flights.
The DOT logged 8,376 consumer complaints between January and June. So the tech tsunami at Delta last month wouldn’t be included in this particular report. In June, overall complaints declined 27.1 percent year-over-year, but were up 31.6 percent over May of this year.
The report tracks complaints involving chronic flight delays, delays on the tarmac, mishandled baggage, getting bumped off one’s flight, treatment of disabled passengers, allegations of discrimination, and “incidents involving animals.” The DOT notes that it hasn’t determined the validity of the complaints.
Overall, 78 percent of flights were on time the first six months of 2016, according to the DOT. At MSP, that figure was slightly higher at 81 percent for arrivals, and 83.5 percent for departures.
Some may be surprised with the report’s findings, given recent news. Money magazine’s online headline, channeling the Onion, was: “Flyers Think Airlines Are a Little Less Lousy This Year.”
The worst offenders nationwide for on-time arrivals were (in order): American Airlines, on time 72.4 percent; Virgin America, 72.6 percent; and Spirit Airlines, 73 percent. Both American and Spirit serve MSP Airport.
The best for on-time arrivals were (also in order): Hawaiian Airlines, 91.1 percent; Alaska Airlines, 86.4 percent; and SkyWest Airlines, 84.6 percent. Of the three, Alaska and SkyWest serve MSP.
None of the top five offenders for domestic or international tarmac delays involved MSP flights. The worst wait domestically was a 278 minute delay on a Spirit Airlines flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Denver. The plane was diverted to Colorado Springs during a thunderstorm. That’s 4.6 hours, by the way.
The report, which can be found at transportation.gov/airconsumer/air-travel-consumer-reports, has all sorts of interesting tidbits.
But it made me wonder: If people want to complain about their airline experience, how would they know to complain to the U.S. DOT? The link is transportation.gov/airconsumer, and a DOT spokeswoman said it’s one of the most popular websites in the department.
I’m sure many people complain directly to the airlines, which have a separate tally, according to the DOT. Some in the Twin Cities even complain to the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which operates MSP. But MAC officials send them back to the airlines.
And many take to social media, especially Twitter, which is satisfying in a voyeuristic way, but would not be included in DOT reports.