Airline complaints revealed Which? reveals passenger complaints to regulator

30 August 2012

Airport delay

Flight cancellations are the biggest source of complaints about airlines to the UK's official aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Figures obtained by Which? Travel show cancellations and delays provoked thousands of complaints to the CAA in the 12 months to May 2012.

There were 3,432 complaints about cancellations - 30% of the total received by the regulator - and 2,721, or 23%, about delays.

Problems with reservations, refunds, schedule changes and lost baggage all caused hundreds of complaints. We have a number of guides to help you with your airline complaints, including your rights with flight delays, flight cancellations and flights cancelled due to strikes.  

Airline complaints

Passengers can turn to the CAA if they complain to their airline but are not satisfied with the airline's response. The CAA does not publish details of these complaints, but Which? obtained the most recent figures using Freedom of Information legislation.

The airlines that provoked the most complaints to the CAA were not surprisingly three of the biggest airlines operating in the UK. Ryanair was top of the list with 1,592 complaints, followed by British Airways with 1,269 and EasyJet with 1,067. The next highest was Thomson Airways with 438.

Complaints about delays

We also looked at the number of complaints per 100 flights for the areas that were causing the most concern among passengers. For delays,Thomson Airways had the highest number of complaints per 100 flights, followed by Monarch and Thomas Cook Airlines. 

All three operate charter flights, and had much higher rates of complaints than no-frills carriers such as Ryanair, Easyjet and Flybe, as well as some large traditional scheduled airlines like British Airways. This appears to be because charter operators are prepared to tolerate long delays rather than cancel flights.

Complaints about cancellations

Monarch and Thomson said they preferred to delay flights rather than cancel them, and Monarch said some competitors took a 'easier and cheaper option' to cancel flights, which left customers having to fend for themselves. The airline with the highest rate of complaints about cancellations per 100 flights was Air France, followed by Wizz Air.

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