Complaints against airlines have dropped but it's not because air passengers are happier. It’s because airlines have made it harder for people to complain.
The latest passenger numbers show that 56 million people took U.S. commercial flights in November, with only 1,300 filing complaints with the Feds.
On the surface that means there was only one complaint for every 43,000 passengers but Los Angeles Republican senator Janice Hahn says the number of complaints is low because the airline industry has made it too hard to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Under federal law introduced in 2012, airlines must post how unhappy passengers can file a complaint with the federal agency on their websites, either by calling a hotline (202-366-2220) or through an online complaint form.
Hahn says airlines may be doing just that, but the information is not easy to find. She cites the example of Spirit Airlines, where the information is buried on page 48 of a 51-page long legal document named the “Contract of Carriage.”
On American Airlines' website, the information is at the bottom of a page titled “Consumer Service Plan”. Delta Air Lines has the complaint information at the end of a page called “Travelers With Disabilities”.
“I searched for the hotline number myself on different airline websites and couldn't find it anywhere,” Hahn says. “If I can't find it, I am assuming many other fliers can't find it either, and the data demonstrates that.”
Hahn has now filed an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration funding bill, requiring airlines to post the complaint on a prominent place on their websites.
American Airlines in response says “We comply with all current regulations and will continue to do so.”
No word yet from the other airlines.