While hiring has picked up, it will take some time for carriers to get their act together. For the time being, airlines need to be willing to do more to hear out harried passengers and offer solutions.
U.S. air travel service complaints jumped 35 percent in June over the previous month as airlines canceled or delayed thousands of flights, the U.S. Transportation Department (USDOT) said on Friday.
USDOT said complaints shot up nearly 270 percent over pre-pandemic levels, even though carriers in June flew only 86 percent as many flights as they flew in June 2019.
Last week, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg urged the 10 largest U.S. airlines to do more to help stranded and delayed passengers, calling the widespread disruptions this summer “unacceptable.” He said he was “contemplating options” to write new rules “that would further expand the rights of airline passengers.”
For the first six months of 2022, USDOT received 28,550 complaints, up 28 percent from 2021. In June, 58 percent of 5,862 complaints received were against U.S. carriers and 35 percent against foreign carriers.
Buttigieg has said U.S. airlines are largely responsible for tens of thousands of flight delays and cancellations this summer. Airlines noted they have voluntarily reduced flights to improve service while they ramped up hiring, and have blamed problems on inadequate air traffic control staffing and severe weather.
Buttigieg said last week in the first six months of 2022, roughly 24 percent of the domestic flights of U.S. airlines were delayed and 3.2 percent were canceled.
USDOT plans by Sept. 2 to create an “interactive dashboard” for air travelers to compare services or amenities each of the largest U.S. airlines provide when cancellation or delays are due to circumstances within the airline’s control.
USDOT in a separate letter last week asked airlines to “update your customer service plan to reflect any desired changes as soon as possible but no later” than Aug. 25 to reflect updates “in the dashboard.”
Buttigieg noted in a Reuters interview this month USDOT has completed 10 airline investigations and is pursuing enforcement actions.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio)
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Photo credit: Tens of thousands of flights in the U.S. have been delayed and cancelled this summer.