U.S. Transportation Department reports passenger complaints increased in 2023

As more travelers take to the skies, more of those individuals are issuing complaints against major airlines.
American Airlines Passenger Jet Lands in Washington
American Airlines Passenger Jet Lands in Washington / J. David Ake/GettyImages

2024 has been a record year for the travel business. After the COVID-19 global pandemic shuttered much of the world, the industry is surging to new heights. But with that increase in travel, there’s also an increase in passenger complaints throughout the airline industry. 2023 saw a massive increase in complaints from customers making their voices heard more frequently.

The U.S. Transportation Department reported that nearly 97,000 customer submissions in 2023, with 91 percent (approximately 88,270) of those being complaints. In 2022 the industry saw about 86,000 total submissions, which includes both inquiries and opinions.

According to the Transportation Department, much of that high volume came in the form of customers issuing complaints against airlines and ticket agencies for a variety of issues. This is the largest number of complaints since 2020. That was also the year in which the travel industry was first hit by the COVID-19 outbreak which saw hordes of flights delayed and outright cancelled without any help for customers. That year there were nearly 103,000 complaints issued to the U.S Transportation Department.

What’s interesting to note in this information is that airlines are doing a better job of avoiding canceling flights. This year, approximately 1.3 percent of all flights are canceled. In 2023, about 1.2 percent of flights were canceled and that number was down from the 2.3 percent in 2022. Other complaint categories included those within disability-related grievances and discrimination allegations, both of which saw an increase. Disability-related grievances rose by nearly 25 percent, while discrimination-related complaints increased by a single-digit percentage.

This increase in customer complaints ties hand-in-hand with legislation from the Biden Administration for airlines to remove what has been called “junk fees” and provide better options for customers facing flight cancelations and other inconveniences. American, Delta, United, JetBlue, Alaska, and Hawaiian Airlines all came together to push back against the legislation that was set to go into effect on July 1. According to the Transportation Department, these changes can save customers nearly $500 million per year.