Just like airplanes, airline complaints are going up and down. For the most part, airlines are continuing to improve their baggage handling rates and reducing the number of canceled flights, which is leading to fewer complaints from passengers.
Thanks to new baggage handling technology and better planning and scheduling, we’re seeing fewer issues for passengers, which is putting travelers in a better mood, at least for the month of April.
According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the dozen airlines that report baggage handling issues had 2.39 cases of mishandled bags for every 1,000 passengers, as reported in April 2018.
That’s a drop from March which had 2.59. What’s more, April 2017 saw a rate of 2.5, so there was an improvement from month to month, as well as year-over-year.
Unfortunately, things headed the other way in May. There were fewer complaints in May — 1,102 complaints compared to April’s 1,169 and 1,784 in May 2017 — but there was a slight bump in canceled flights and mishandled bags. The BTS reported 2.59 cases of mishandled bags in May 2018, and the number of canceled flights rose to 1.2 percent, compared to 1 percent in April and 0.8 percent in May 2017.
According to the Bureau’s monthly Air Travel Consumer report, 1,169 airline service complaints were filed in April 2018 as compared to the 1908 filed in April 2017, indicating a drop of nearly 39 percent.
Only 17 airlines report flight operations to the DOT. These 17 airlines had flights arriving within 15 minutes of their ETA an average of 81.3 percent of the time in April, 79.4 percent in May. Of course, this is a moving target with too many variables to keep it consistent: In March, it was 80.9 percent.
Significantly late flights incur penalties, as fines are possible for tarmac delays longer than three hours for domestic flights or four for international flights, and anything over that will often result in an investigation before the fines are assessed.
If you’d like, you can base your travel plans on an airline’s performance. If you want something more likely to be punctual, fly Delta Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Endeavor Airlines, and Mesa Airlines — four airlines with high on-time ratings (Mesa and Endeavor swapped places between April and May). Their on-time arrival ratings varied from 83.2 percent (Endeavor in May) to 90.8 percent (Hawaiian in May)
Not so concerned about on-time arrivals, but you want something inexpensive? Southwest Airlines, PSA Airlines, JetBlue Airlines and Frontier Airlines may become your preferred choice. They were the four with the lower on-time arrivals, with Southwest and PSA swapping places between April and May, with on-time arrival rates between 67.6 – 75 percent for the two months.
When it comes to cancellations, April saw Hawaiian, United, and Delta with 0.1 percent, 0.2 percent, and 0.3 percent. In May, the numbers were about the same with Delta achieving a 0.0 percent (only 23 canceled flights), and Hawaiian and Allegiant Air following with 0.1 percent and 0.3 percent.
Conversely, the highest rate of canceled flights is shared by Envoy Air, Republic Airlines, and Endeavor Air in April (3.7, 2.6, and 2.3 percent), and Endeavor, Republic, and Envoy in May (2.6, 2.5, and 2.4 percent, respectively). Overall, airlines canceled a mere 1 percent in April, and 1.2 percent in May.