From August 2011 By Everett Potter
Lost luggage and rude attendants may make you want to scream. Here are the U.S. airlines that people complained about the most.
When Andrew Schrage discovered that his seatback TV wasn’t working on his JetBlue flight from Chicago to Boston, he didn’t wait until he landed to complain to the airline. Schrage, an editor at the website MoneyCrashers.com, tweeted @JetBlue before the plane took off, and the airline responded - with a $50 voucher.
Twitter may be changing how we complain to the airlines, but there’s still a lot to complain about. According to the latest Department of Transportation (DOT) report, the agency received nearly 3,600 complaints about airlines from January to June, 2011. That’s a lot of complaints, even if it is an improvement from the nearly 4,000 received over the same period last year. Not surprisingly, complaints about flight delays and cancellations, rude or incompetent service, and baggage handling led the list.
But what these stats don’t tell you is that legions of consumers are now voicing their complaints directly with the airlines via Twitter. And the airlines - or at least some of them - are listening, responding, and in some cases being proactive and fixing the issues. Stephanie Dressler, a senior associate at Manhattan-based Montieth & Company, missed her Delta flight to Miami in August 2011 because of an exceptionally slow-moving check-in line at New York’s JFK. So she tweeted pictures of the line to her followers. By the time she arrived in Miami, Delta had apologized to her via Twitter, and on her way home she was upgraded to Delta priority - and coveted exit-row seats.
Clearly, it’s faster to broadcast a complaint in 140 characters or less than to call customer service or log a complaint with the DOT. But not all airlines are listening - some, like Skywest, have Twitter pages that are mere bookmarks. Others, like American Airlines, have eight rotating community managers on Twitter and receive 30,000 tweets per month, according to the airline’s social media communications director, Jonathan Pierce. Of course, anyone can tweet anything; lodging an official complaint with the DOT means you have a serious gripe. Here are the U.S. airlines the DOT says have had the most - and least - complaints.
.33 complaints per 100,000 passengers
No. 15 Alaska Airlines
.49 complaints per 100,000 passengers
Alaska may have had only 42 complaints this year, but it's still more than last year. Tweet @AlaskaAir when something goes wrong, and chances are you’ll get a faster response than you would by calling, e-mailing, or dealing with customer service at the counter. Its modest following of less than 50,000 will likely grow fast this year.
No. 14 Mesa Airlines
.58 complaints per 100,000 passengers
This regional carrier for Delta, United, and US Airways had the fewest raw number of complaints over the first six months of this year: 25. That’s pretty remarkable, as is its consistency from last year, when they had 24 complaints over the same period of time.
No. 13 AirTran Airways
.63 complaints per 100,000 passengers
There’s no question that AirTran’s ranking has improved - it has cut its number of complaints in half. But social media has nothing to do with keeping its customers happy; its Twitter presence is nothing more than a placeholder.
No. 12 Frontier Airlines
.66 complaints per 100,000 passengers
Frontier has begun to be more interactive at @FlyFrontier with its social media–savvy fliers. Maybe that helped push its official complaint rate down from 1.23 over the first six months of 2010.
No. 11 Hawaiian Airlines
.73 complaints per 100,000 passengers
With just 31 complaints in the first six months of 2011, the Aloha State’s carrier has improved from the same period last year, when it had 39. And since they've carried more passengers in 2011, Hawaiian's complaint rate has dropped as well.
No. 10 Skywest Airlines
.77 complaints per 100,000 passengers
The largest independently owned regional airline boasts a low complaint rate even though it flew almost 12 million passengers over the first six months of 2011.
No. 9 Atlantic Southeast Airlines
.96 complaints per 100,000 passengers
Atlantic Southeast will merge with ExpressJet later this year. Ideally, the newly formed airline will have a Twitter presence, because this airline, which operates close to 1,000 flights every day in the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean, does not.
No. 8 ExpressJet Airlines
1.01 complaints per 100,000 passengers
Express Jet has slipped from a rate of .70 last year, and its Twitter presence is an anemic placeholder. Let’s hope that when it merges with Atlantic Southeast later this year, a more dynamic social media presence will be part of the business plan.
No. 7 JetBlue Airways
1.07 complaints per 100,000 passengers
When JetBlue got on the Twitter bandwagon in the spring of 2007 - one of the first big brands to jump in - its business plan was that it wanted to help customers. And according to the DOT, there are enough complaints to keep its customer-service folks busy.
No. 6 Delta Airlines
1.27 complaints per 100,000 passengers
Hands down, Delta holds the title of most improved. A year ago, it was ranked the worst airline for complaints in virtually every category. Now that the bumpy merger with Northwest has emerged from the turbulence, Delta has cut its complaint rate nearly in half.
No. 5 American Airlines
1.50 complaints per 100,000 passengers
American logged 636 complaints from January to June, 2011. With nearly a quarter of a million Twitter followers, though, the airline has upped its game to try and handle problems before they become complaints.
No. 4 American Eagle Airlines
1.67 complaints per 100,000 passengers
The country’s largest regional carrier reported the worst on-time rate and the highest flight cancellation rates, which certainly had a lot to do with its shocking jump from a respectable complaint rate of .87 over the same period in 2010 to a whopping 1.67 this year.
No. 3 Continental Airlines
1.70 complaints per 100,000 passengers
Flight problems and customer service issues are the bane of Continental, and its complaint rate edged up from 2010.
No. 2 US Airways
1.73 complaints per 100,000 passengers
Flight issues and customer service remain major problems for this carrier. It’s routinely at the top of the barrel when it comes to complaints, despite the fact that it carries less than half the passengers that Southwest does.
No. 1 United Airlines
2.01 complaints per 100,000 passengers
United didn’t fare well last year either - coming in at No. 2 - but this year it grabs the title of worst airline for passenger complaints.
Source : http://www.travelandleisure.com