A recent study from Upgraded Points (https://upgradedpoints.com/airline-complaints-during-covid-19) has revealed the shocking increase in consumer complaints likely due to the impact of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
Exploding Complaints for U.S. and Foreign Airlines, Online Travel Agents
For U.S. airline companies, the pandemic has resulted in a massive increase in consumer complaints: 2,903 in March 2020 but 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, the news was even worse: 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.
The most dramatic increase, however, was seen in the online travel agent category: while only 33 complaints were lodged for them in April 2019, 284 were recorded for March 2020, while 2,304 were registered for April 2020. This amounts to a 711% increase in complaints in just 30 days, but an astonishing year-over-year 6,882% increase.
Commenting further, Miller stated, “When we drilled down into the data we determined – not unsurprisingly – that more complaints were registered regarding refund problems than any other category. In fact, many other categories of complaints, like issues for the disabled, baggage problems and customer service actually decreased, no doubt due to the fact that fewer people are flying during the pandemic. Yet the volume of complaints in this area is truly mind-boggling: in March of 2019 there were fewer than 100 refund complaints, yet this year has witnessed a gut-busting 17,642% increase – over 17,000 complaints!”
Among U.S. airlines Frontier Airlines (2,822), American 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).
Leading the pack among online travel booking agents was Expedia.com – which saw only 29 complaints in March of this year but 532 refund request issues 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 U.S. DOT (Department of Transportation), an analysis and ranking was performed on the top 10 U.S. airlines, foreign airlines, and travel booking agents.
For this study, complaints dealing with refunds, ticketing issues, fares, customer service problems, baggage, sales, disability issues were all included.
Alex Miller, the founder of Upgraded Points, stated for the media, “As travel industry watchers, we were well aware that the recent pandemic has thrown the airline industry into an uproar, so some increase in customer complaints was certainly expected. What was not expected was the sheer volume of complaints – the year-to-year rise was simply off the charts.”
For a fuller discussion, as well as detailed graphics, please visit the full report HERE.