According to recent data published by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Frontier Airlines had the highest rate of passenger complaints among U.S. carriers in 2022. The Denver-based airline received over twenty complaints for every 100,000 passengers who boarded its aircraft. By comparison, the national average was about six passenger complaints per 100,000.

In 2022, the airline industry experienced a surge in demand for air travel after the pandemic-related restrictions were lifted. However, a staff shortage due to layoffs and retirements during the pandemic led to one of the most disruptive years for flyers. Consequently, delays and cancellations became a common occurrence throughout the year.

Southwest Airlines was particularly affected by a severe winter storm and system outages, leading to the cancellation of their entire flight schedule in late December. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported a significant increase in passenger complaints against all airlines, both domestic and foreign, from 49,991 in 2021 to 77,656 in 2022. Of these, grievances against U.S. airlines more than doubled from 20,365 to 47,591.

frustrated airline passenger sitting at the airport
Photo Credit: David Prado

A Disruptive Year Of Air Travel

“Air travel is just a mess right now,” said Teresa Murray, director of Consumer Watchdog at the nonprofit U.S. PIRG Education Fund in an accompanying writeup. Murray is also the author of a report on last year’s airline troubles.

“Our analysis shows the complaints-to-passengers ratio was more than five times higher in 2022 than in 2019,” Murray said.

“Airlines often post unrealistic schedules, they cancel flights and they drag their feet with refunds. Airlines and online ticket agents just don’t face enough consequences when they abuse customers.”

Record Year Of Complaints Against Airlines

A new report from the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) has revealed that U.S. airlines received more complaints from consumers in 2022 than in any year in the last 25 years. Using data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the report notes that there were 77,656 complaints filed in 2022, the second-highest number on record. The report notes that in 2020, most of the complaints were filed against foreign airlines. In 2022, however, U.S. airlines received the highest number of complaints since 1997, with 47,591 complaints filed.

The report also analyzed the complaint rates of individual airlines. Horizon Air had the lowest complaint rate at 1.09 per 100,000 passengers, followed by SkyWest Airlines at 1.37 and Mesa Airlines at 1.74. Among the largest carriers, Delta had the lowest complaint rate at 2.66, while Southwest Airlines had the highest rate at 6.75.

The report also found that the on-time arrival rate for flights decreased in 2022. Fewer than 77% of flights arrived on time compared to more than 81% in 2021. Delta had the best rate at 82.5%, while Allegiant Air had the worst rate at 63%. The national flight cancellation rate was 2.7%, up from approximately 1.8% in 2021. Hawaiian Airlines had the lowest cancellation rate at 0.92%, while JetBlue had the highest rate at 3.74%.

Finally, the report analyzed the rate of mishandled bags, which climbed from 0.51% in 2021 to 0.64% in 2022. Allegiant Air had the lowest rate of mishandled bags at 0.16%, while American Airlines had the highest rate at 0.94%.

This report highlights the significant disruptions and dissatisfaction that air travelers experienced in 2022. As travel demand increased post-pandemic, airlines struggled to keep up. Reduced staffing and weather-related disruptions led to increased complaints and reduced on-time performance.

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