Air travel is getting worse. That’s what passengers are telling the U.S. government

WASHINGTON (AP) — Air travel got even worse last year, when looking at the number of consumer complaints filed with the US government.

The Department of Transport said Friday it received nearly 97,000 complaints in 2023, up from about 86,000 the year before. The department said there were so many complaints that it took until July to sort through the files and compile the figures.

That is the highest number consumer complaints about airlines since 2020, when airlines were slow to refund passengers after the coronavirus pandemic ground air travel to a halt.

The increase in the number of complaints came even while airlines cancelled far fewer U.S. flights — 116,700, or 1.2% of the total, last year, compared with about 210,500, or 2.3%, 2022according to FlightAware data. Delays remained stubbornly high last year, however, at around 21% of all flights.

So far this year, cancellations have remained relatively low — about 1.3% of all flights — but delays still stand at about 21%.

More than two-thirds of all complaints were handled last year American Airlinesonly a quarter was about foreign airlines. The rest was mainly about travel agents and tour operators.

Complaints about the treatment passengers with disabilities increased by more than a quarter compared to 2022. Complaints about discrimination, while small in number, also rose sharply. Most were about race or national origin.

The Department of Transportation said the increase in complaints was partly the result of more consumers being aware of their rights and ability to file a complaint. The department said it helped Southwest Airlines customers obtain more than $600 million in refunds and compensation after the airline canceled nearly 17,000 flights in December 2022. Southwest also paid a $35 million fine.

Airlines receive many more complaints from travelers who don’t know how to file a complaint with the government or don’t bother. However, the airlines don’t release these numbers.

The Department of Transportation is modernizing its complaints system, which the agency says will help it better oversee the aviation industry. But the department is months late in publishing complaint figures. It only released figures for the second half of 2023 on Friday.


The Department of Transport’s online complaint form can be found at

Leave a Comment