Just out is the latest US DOT report on airline complaints for May 2022. While issues had eased slightly since March and April, when we last covered these, they are “still more than 200 percent above pre-pandemic levels.”
The recent US DOT Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR) shows airline operational data in May, which included on-time performance, consumer complaints received, and mishandled baggage. While complaints dipped 5% compared with April, a notably bad month for airlines flying to Hawaii and throughout the US, complaints are still 200% higher than before Covid. So what gives, and will we ever return to normal?
The DOT says these reports are designed to help passengers assess the quality of airline services. And that’s important for Hawaii travelers since the primary way to get here is by airplane. DOT said it is “committed to ensuring airline passengers are treated fairly and concerned about recent flight cancellations and disruptions.”
DOT monitors airline operations to ensure carriers aren’t scheduling flights “unrealistically.” “This includes ensuring consumers receive prompt refunds if they are no longer interested in continuing their travel when their flights are canceled or significantly changed.
We just wrote about Passenger Kicked Off Hawaiian Goes Viral + Our Experiences.
The article led to quite a list of commenter complaints about how they are being treated by the airlines. We chimed in from our own recent experiences too. That included finding our flight departure in both directions changed by many hours without notification from Hawaiian Airlines. Some of you also started checking your Hawaiian Airlines ticket, and almost ten readers had a similar problem.
May 2022 on-time arrival performance leaders.
In May, airlines were on-time 77%, up 1% from the prior month and down 1% from May 2019.
1) Hawaiian Airlines – 86.0%
2) Delta Air Lines – 80.7%
3) Alaska Airlines – 80.2%
The lowest rate of canceled flights in May 2022.
1) Hawaiian Airlines – 0.1%
2) Southwest Airlines – 0.7%
Complaints About Airline Service.
In May 2022, the DOT received 4,344 consumer complaints about the airlines, up 237% compared with pre-pandemic 2019. Of those, 56% were domestic airline based.
Nearly one-third of the complaints were related to difficulty obtaining refunds.
It looks like getting our money back when promised isn’t easy. The DOT’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection said it is working to “ensure compliance with the refund requirements. Many passengers who were initially denied refunds have received the required refunds.”
Flight problems were the second highest category of complaints received in May 2022.
Of the complaints in May, 24% related to cancellations, delays, or other deviations from airlines’ schedules. DOT said it works with airlines experiencing widespread cancellations or delays, reminding them of their obligation to promptly refund passengers who choose not to accept the alternative offered for a canceled or significantly changed flight. Airlines must also plan to mitigate passenger inconveniences due to cancellations, missed connections, and delays.
Problems contributing to airline issues include:
1) Inadequate staffing.
2) Mechanical problems compounded by staff shortages.
3) FAA issues. They have their employee problems and is training new air traffic controllers. Delays caused by FAA account for about 5% of all delays.
4) Booming travel demand. Aircraft utilization is exceptionally high. Even one small delay can snowball through an airline, causing many other problems.
What to do:
1) Travel with airlines that have the fewest delays and canceled flights.
2) Check, check, check. Keep following up on your itinerary and on the day of travel, find out where your plane is coming from and if it is on time before heading out.
3) Choose the first flight of the day to Hawaii. The thought here is that if the plane is already where it needs to be from the night before, you’ll have fewer chances of a delay.
4) Avoid stopovers en route to and from Hawaii. That makes the odds of a problem occurring that much worse. Your editors were heading to New York. Instead of opting for the Hawaiian nonstop from Honolulu, they chose Delta, which stopped first in Los Angeles. The problem is that in Los Angeles, Delta discovered a pilot window crank problem for which they had no part.
There was a 24-hour delay, the extra legroom seats vaporized, and the luggage ended up on another continent. Lesson learned. Please, control the risk better than we did and book nonstop flights whenever possible. It made a remarkable but painful story. Jeff ended up having no luggage for three days.
5) When you must have a stop en route, try to stay with the same airline, and have one PNR (itinerary). The airline will make greater efforts to help you in that case than when you have two tickets from two unrelated carriers.
6) Pack adequate carry-on luggage. Don’t do like Jeff did, and check everything, including his shoes!