Upgraded Points has announced a recent study found a 965% increase in complaints against US airlines over the previous year, the company said.
Complaints against foreign airlines saw an increase to 2,220% from the previous year.
The increase is likely due to the impact of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
Due to COVID-19, the number of complaints related to refunds were most prevalent with an increase of 17,642%. For US airline companies, the pandemic has resulted in a massive increase in consumer complaints: 2,903 in March 2020 and 8,146 just a month later (April 2020) – a 289% increase in one month, and a 965% increase from the same period last year (which saw just 765 complaints).
For foreign airlines, there were only a total of 404 complaints for April 2019, yet complaints in March 2020 reached 2,663 and zoomed to 9,374 the following month, a massive 2,220% increase over the same period in 2019.
Complaints in the online travel agent category were 33 in April 2019, with 284 recorded for March 2020, and 2,304 registered for April 2020. This amounts to a 711% increase in complaints in just 30 days, and a 6,882% increase year-over-year.
Issues for the disabled, baggage problems and customer service decreased, possibly due to the fact that fewer people were flying during the pandemic. In March of 2019, there were fewer than 100 refund complaints.
Among US airlines Frontier Airlines (2,822), Alaska Airlines (1,268), and United Airlines (913) received the most complaints in April of 2020.
Foreign airlines showing the most complaints in April 2020 were Air Canada (1,042), Volaris Airlines (1,964) and TAP Air Portugal (831).
Online travel booking agent Expedia saw 29 complaints in March 2020, but 532 refund requests in April. Agents such as Cheapoair.com, Justfly.com, and Chase Travel all had over 100 complaints in April 2020, compared to their handful of requests in the month prior.
For this study, data was researched from customer complaints against travel booking agents as well as domestic and foreign airlines for the period March-April 2020, comparing those levels with those received one year prior, in order to gauge the impact due to the pandemic. Using data from the June 2020 air travel consumer report provided by the US DOT (Department of Transportation), an analysis and ranking was performed on the top 10 US airlines, foreign airlines and travel booking agents.
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