Fliers’ com­plaints jump 70% af­ter United in­ci­dent

More than 1,900 griev­ances were filed against air­lines fly­ing in the U.S. in April.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS BEAT - By Hugo Martin hugo.martin@la­times.com

The same month that a vi­ral video de­picted a United Air­lines pas­sen­ger be­ing dragged from his seat, com­plaints against air­lines in the U.S. soared 70%.

A U.S. Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion re­port Wed­nes­day showed that 1,909 com­plaints were filed in April against air­lines fly­ing in the U.S., up from 1,123 com­plaints in the same month last year.

Although flight de­lays and can­cel­la­tions in­creased some­what in April, the most likely cause of the com­plaint surge was the pub­lic re­ac­tion to the bloody in­ci­dent April 9 that put a fo­cus on the treat­ment of pas­sen­gers by the na­tion’s air­lines.

David Dao, a pas­sen­ger on a flight from Chicago to Louisville, Ky., was dragged from a seat and down the air­plane aisle by air­port se­cu­rity of­fi­cers af­ter re­fus­ing to give up the seat, which United wanted for an air­line crew mem­ber. Dao suf­fered a bro­ken nose, a con­cus­sion and lost two teeth in the in­ci­dent.

United and Dao’s at­tor­neys reached a set­tle­ment over the in­ci­dent but both sides de­clined to dis­close the terms.

Paul Hud­son, founder of the pas­sen­ger rights group Fly­er­srights.org, said the Dao in­ci­dent may have em­bold­ened pas­sen­gers to speak out about how air­lines are treat­ing them.

“A lot of peo­ple have re­al­ized that things are bad and that they can com­plain about it,” said Hud­son, whose group has more than 60,000 mem­bers.

The big­gest num­ber of com­plaints filed in April were against Amer­i­can Air­lines (324), fol­lowed by Delta Air Lines (297) and United (265), the fed­eral re­port said. Low-cost car­rier Spirit Air­line had the high­est rate of com­plaints, 7.2 com­plaints for ev­ery 100,000 pas­sen­gers, com­pared with 3.04 com­plaints for ev­ery 100,000 pas­sen­gers for United.

Most com­plaints were about flight prob­lems such as can­cel­la­tions and de­lays. Those com­plaints more than dou­bled in April, to 753 from 372 the year-ear­lier pe­riod, the fed­eral agency said. Com­plaints about over­book­ing rose to 89 from 42.

In April, 78.5% of all flights by U.S. car­ri­ers ar­rived on time, down from 84.5% a year ear­lier. The rate of can­celed flights rose to 1.6% of all sched­uled do­mes­tic flights, up from 0.9%, ac­cord­ing to the agency.

Su­san Walsh As­so­ci­ated Press

THE IN­CREASE in air­line com­plaints in April from a year ear­lier may have been spurred by the in­juries to United pas­sen­ger David Dao. Above, United planes.

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