Customer Complaints: Best and Worst Airlines

If you’ve ever had a bad experience aboard a flight, the Department of Transportation wants to know about it. Every month, the DOT compiles a list of airline statistics – including complaints – and ranks U.S. airlines accordingly. The following information is from the latest report covering February 2012.

See the Cities with Best and Worst Airfares

Biggest Passenger Complaints

Complaint statistics are divided by categories, and the category that gets more complaints than any other is Flight Problems. This includes passenger dissatisfaction regarding cancelations, delays and missed connections.  In February of this year, flight problems garnered 152 complaints from the public (out of a total of 691 complaints), a small percentage when you consider how many thousands fly a month. It could also mean those with gripes don’t bother to report them.

More Complaints – About ‘Old’ Flight Attendants

[Which airlines have the most complaints? Which have the least? Keep reading, below.]

Other top categories for complaints include Reservations/Ticketing/Board (116 complaints), Baggage (107 complaints) and Customer Service (100 complaints).

Best Airlines: Fewest Complaints

The DOT ranks all U.S. airlines with at least 1 percent of total domestic scheduled-service passenger revenues (as determined by DOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics), plus any other carriers that report flight delay and mishandled baggage data voluntarily. The top five with the fewest complaints per passengers in February were:

  1. Southwest
  2. Hawaiian
  3. Mesa
  4. Alaska
  5. Skywest

Worst Airlines: Most Complaints

Before you jump to conclusions about any of these airlines, keep reading to see what these complaint statistics don’t tell you.

  1. Virgin America
  2. United
  3. US Airways
  4. American Eagle
  5. Frontier

Summer Weather: Biggest Cause of Delays

What the Complaint Statistics Don’t Tell You

Sometimes complaints occur due to one-time problems with weather or airport delays outside an airline’s control – plus, as the DOT points out, complaints are not necessarily investigated to determine their validity.

Also, some airlines are not always included in the DOT rankings due to the small number of passengers they carry. For example, one news report claims Spirit actually received the most complaints for January of 2012, handily beating that month’s second-place finisher, United.

Plus, the statistics don’t always tell the whole story. Although Virgin America is listed in the top spot for February complaints, that month the award-winning carrier also had the best on-time record of all the airlines.

Latest Honor for Virgin America

How to File an Airline Complaint

You can contact the DOT online and file a complaint there – it literally takes just seconds. Also, contact the airline in question by phone or email (but putting a complaint in writing is recommended).


Published: May 8, 2012