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U.S airline passenger complaints reach record levels

Complaints about air travel to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in calendar year 2023 are the highest number on record, excluding 2020.

In calendar year 2023, DOT received 96,853 submissions, compared to 86,240 in calendar year 2022. Of the 96,853 submissions received in 2023, 67,661 concerned U.S. carriers, 24,991 concerned foreign air carriers, and 3,162 concerned travel companies.

Also in 2023, the Department received a total of 2,685 disability-related complaints, up from the total of 2,098 complaints received in calendar year 2022.

Additionally, the DOT received a total of 223 discrimination-related complaints, up from the total of 176 complaints received in the previous year.

The release of the submissions data in the Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR) was delayed primarily because of the high volume of complaints against airlines and ticket agents received by the Office of Aviation Consumer Protection and the time needed to review and process these consumer complaints using the Department’s outdated legacy consumer complaint application system. Over the past three years, complaints made up an average of 91% of consumer submissions with the rest made up of enquiries and opinions.

READ: Flyr applies to US DoT for foreign air carrier permit

As DOT modernises its system, given the continued high volume of air travel service complaints concerning airlines and ticket agents, it has revised how it processes consumer complaints for efficiency which has resulted in less granular data being available in the ATCR. Except for displaying civil rights complaints in a similar manner as before, the ATCR displays consumer submissions (complaints, inquiries, and opinions) as opposed to complaints for June-December 2023 and compares submissions received in 2023 to the total submissions received for the same period in 2022.

The Department will revert to displaying detailed complaint data in the ATCR in a similar manner as before once its new modernized system is operational.

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