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Airline Customer Complaints Are on the Rise

Did you have a disappointing experience flying last year? If so, you’re not alone. According to a new study, air passengers found plenty to complain about in 2012.

Data from the latest Airline Quality Rating (AQR) report shows that official complaints registered with the Department of Transportation (DOT) went up by roughly 20 percent last year, compared to 2011. More than half of complaints had to do with flights, reservations, ticketing, boarding, and customer service. We’re not surprised, given that airlines made it harder for families to sit together last year, and some baggage fees went up, too.

Despite the surging number of complaints, however, it looks like the airlines are holding it together more or less. The AQR numbers reveal that carriers did well in two areas: Airlines had fewer late arrivals and fewer mishandeled bags in 2012, in comparison with 2011. However, it’s worth noting that the improvements overall were very slight. According to the report, “The overall industry AQR score was nearly the same in 2012 as in 2011.” So not a whole lot has changed in the industry since 2011.

The AQR is an annual report put together by researchers at Wichita State and Purdue universities that weighs DOT data on customer complaints, mishandled luggage, on-time arrivals, and bumping over a 12-month period. Using a methodology designed by airline-industry experts, the report also assigns quality-rating scores to 14 major airlines.

Which airlines came out on top? For 2012, Virgin America saw the highest quality rating, followed by discounters JetBlue and AirTran. Bringing up the rear are United, at 14th place, and ExpressJet, in 13th place. United also had one of the biggest declines in quality rating since the previous year.

Do you agree with the findings?

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