WASHINGTON -- Consumers flooded the Transportation Department with
2,485 complaints about air travel in July, including 2,111 about
U.S. airline service, the DOT reported.
That total number of air travel complaints is 87% more than in
June, 169% more than in July 1998 and the most since March 1998,
DOT Air Travel Consumer Report figures show.
The Air Transport Association, however, said the number of
complaints received by the DOT still pales in comparison to the
number of people who fly. "It's such a small number, it's not an
indicator of anything," a spokesman said.
Complaints received by airlines, which the ATA considers a more
accurate measure, also have been going up, he said. But the
airlines have responded, he said, with the "customer service
commitment" they agreed to as a group in June.
Complaints received by the DOT were up in every category, but
some of the biggest July-to-July increases were for flight
cancellations (299%), delays (338%) and misconnections (343%).
Tour operators were targeted in 171 complaints, up from just 16
in July 1998. By airline, the biggest increase in complaints was
against American. The number more than quintupled, from 77 to 405,
or 5.26 per 100,000 enplanements. TWA complaints shot up from 28 to
119, or 4.76 per 100,000. US Airways complaints rose from 41 to
182, or 3.64 per 100,000.
Airlines contend consumer dissatisfaction is up because of
crowded airplanes, crowded airports and flight delays. The industry
has been very vocal in blaming the air traffic control system for
the increase in delays this year.
This month, the controllers finally fired back. The main reason
for the delays is that "profit-driven airlines place too many
planes on the runways at peak times," the National Air Traffic
Controllers Association said.