Revealed: The three most complained-about US airlines

Sharp rise in complaints come as US airports saw record levels of travelers over July 4th holiday

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Wednesday 10 July 2024 12:55
Airlines suing Dept. of Transportation

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Complaints against US airlines rose by nearly 29 percent in 2023, but not all carriers came in for the same level of passenger discontent.

The three airlines with the highest ratio of complaints to passengers were jetBlue, Spirit, and the most-complained-about airline, Frontier, according to a US Public Interest Research Group analysis of US Department of Transportation data.

Frontier had 33 complaints for every 100,000 passengers, while Spirit had 15 and jetBlue received 13.

Frontier Airlines was the most-complained-about US airline in 2023, based on the ratio of complaints to customers in US Department of Transportation data.
Frontier Airlines was the most-complained-about US airline in 2023, based on the ratio of complaints to customers in US Department of Transportation data. (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

At the other end of the spectrum, Alaska received the fewest complaints, with just two per 100,000 passengers.

"We have been disappointed in our historical complaints but are pleased to have seen a recent drop in complaints due to better operational reliability, the reopening of our call center, and the recent launch of the New Frontier which offers clear, upfront low-cost pricing, and no change fees," Frontier told CBS News.

The Independent has contacted jetBlue and Spirit Airlines for comment.

Complaints about airlines, according to the PIRG analysis, are increasing faster than the level of passengers. They rose nearly three times faster than the 11 percent increase in passengers between 2022 and 2023, on the way to setting an overall record of 61,233 complaints last year.

The discontent comes as a record number of passengers, just over 3 million, passed through US airports over the Fourth of July weekend.

The DOT data captures other complaints as well, such 2.8 million grievances about pieces of luggage being mishandled, lost, or damaged, and 11,527 checked wheelchairs or scooters suffering a similar fate.

Overall, the data shows that over time, complaints held relatively steady since 2004, until an explosion of grievances beginning during the pandemic, especially in 2020.

The Biden administration has sought to require US airlines to be more transparent about what it calls “hidden junk fees,” prompting major US air carriers to sue the DOT in May, accusing the agency of going beyond its authority.

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