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Airline Complaints Drop but Still 3 Times Higher Than Pre-Pandemic Levels

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First, the good news. The number of air travel service complaints fell 12% in October compared to a month earlier, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The bad news? Complaints are still 370% above pre-pandemic levels in 2019.


The number of complaints remained sky-high not for lack of trying. Last summer, a new airline customer service dashboard debuted online to help travelers determine what services they could get after a flight cancellation or delay. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg even asked U.S. airlines to improve service, which produced some results.


Gallery: All Over the Map: Pandemic Travel 3 Years On

Previously, no airline guaranteed meals or hotels after a flight cancelation or delay, and now all 10 large U.S. airlines provide meals on request, should passengers face a wait of three or more hours for a new flight after a cancellation. Moreover, nine of the 10 major U.S. airlines provide hotels on request after a delay or cancellation caused by the airline.

So, what were so many travelers miffed about? Of the 5,379 complaints received in October, 3,023 (56.2%) were about U.S. carriers, 1,977 (36.8%) were complaints about foreign airlines, and 377 (7%) were about travel companies. Most — 1,427, or 26.5% —were complaints about cancellations or delays, with refunds coming in second, numbering 1,256 (23.4%). Third was baggage issues with a total 998 (18.6%) complaints, though most were aimed at foreign airlines (60.7%) instead of domestic airlines (39.1%)


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