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Flight passenger complaints up

Cancellations top the list of gripes


Airline cabin

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Complaints by air passengers soared last year, with flight cancellations topping the dissatisfaction list.

Plane passengers made 12,046 written and telephone complaints to the Air Transport Users Council (AUC) in the period April 2006 to March 2007.

This was 22 per cent more than in the previous 12 months, with cancellations forming 40 per cent of the 2006-07 written complaints.

Delays were the second biggest cause of complaints last year, followed by mishandled baggage.

Mishandled baggage

The AUC said the changes to baggage regulations in August 2006 and the fog at Heathrow last Christmas contributed to the rise in complaints.

‘Too many of the complaints were from passengers who had incurred expenses that they should not have incurred if the airlines had honoured their legal obligations,’ the AUC said.

AUC chairman Tina Tietjen said: ‘We accept innovations such as online check-in and baggage charges are legitimate commercial decisions. We agree that some of these innovations, such as self-service check-in, can make life easier for passengers.

‘But airlines and airport operators must be careful the changes they make are put in place with the best interests of their customers at heart and not in the interest solely of cutting costs.

‘It is in everyone’s interests that the whole experience of flying is not made so tiresome that some passengers decide it is not worth the effort and decide to stay at home, however cheap the fare.’

‘Cutting costs’

Which? travel expert Bob Tolliday said: ‘Cancellations and delays and problems with baggage are becoming a fact of life for passengers and in the short-term with crowded skies and continuing security issues things will only get worse.

‘That means it’s important that airlines give travellers the right information on what compensation they are entitled to under the law. It’s also worth keeping abreast of your rights by checking up on the flight rights section of the Which? website.’

These were the 10 main written complaints received by the AUC in the period from April 2006 to March 2007 (with the 2005-06 figures in brackets):

  • Cancellations 2,531 (1,983)
  • Delays 1,149 (1,969)
  • Mishandled baggage 650 (458)
  • Ticketing issues (including refunds) 365 (285)
  • Reservations problems 303 (211)
  • Denied boarding 288 (287)
  • Ground services (including check-in) 184 (117)
  • Schedule changes 94 (118)
  • In-flight services 87 (89)
  • Excess baggage charges 86 (58)

    Total    6,289 (6,094)

These were the 10 main telephone complaints for April 2006 to March 2007 (with the 2005-06 numbers in brackets):

  • Cancellations 1,931 (593)
  • Delays 936 (711)
  • Mishandled baggage 759 (540)
  • Reservations 368 (307)
  • Denied boarding 248 (142)
  • Refunds 235 (199)
  • Tax 165 (55)
  • Schedules 143 (178)
  • Ground services (including check-in) 113 (69)
  • Ticketing issues 99 (146)

    Total    5,757 (3,755)

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