Guilty Airlines: Where They Fell Down in 2012

Quick, answer this question: Which of the following sins were most airlines guilty of this year? A.) Losing more bags than ever; B.) Racking up more late flights than ever; or C.) Amassing a lot more passenger complaints than last year. According to new government statistics, the answer is C.

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Complaints about Airlines Rise

During the first six months of this year, airlines overall garnered more than 6,700 complaints, which is an increase of nearly 24 percent over the same period last year. The big loser was United – it garnered more than three times as many complaints per planeload than runner-up American did, while Southwest had the fewest complaints.

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Winners and Losers

It may be the computer glitches that plagued United passengers in the spring were that airline’s undoing – it had a lot of trouble integrating its website with now-merged partner Continental, and we know United got an earful about that. As for Southwest, there may be fewer expectations of the defiantly no-frills airline.

Reason for Complaints

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, most of the complaints fell under the catchall category of flight problems, which includes cancelations, missed connections and the like. Baggage was a distant second under complaint categories, and with good reason.

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Fewer Lost Bags, Fewer Late Arrivals

On the plus side, the airlines broke a record for fewest lost bags during the first six months of the year – the fewest since the BTS began recording these statistics 18 years ago. Other broken record: best on-time performance, and fewer three hour (or longer) delays on the tarmac.

Airlines are getting more efficient in important areas – maybe they are paying closer attention to passenger complaints.

More from Rick Seaney:

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Published: August 14, 2012