Airline complaints: Which has the best track record?

Posted at 5:00 AM, Jan 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-10 12:54:39-05

PHOENIX — From COVID-19 related staffing shortages to severe weather issues, the past few months have been filled with problems at the airport.

In fact, it's something we've seen since the start of the pandemic in early 2020 — people forced to navigate major delays, cancellations, and the refund process.

To get a bigger picture of what's happening, the Let Joe Know team dove into the complaints received by the Department of Transportation to see how different airlines stack up.

We found more complaints were filed overall in 2020 than in 2021.

In 2020, more than 32,000 complaints were filed compared to nearly 15,000 complaints in 2021.

But an interesting thing we found is the type of complaint being filed. Refunds and losing luggage are still big problems, but complaints showing concerns over canceled flights really took off in 2021.

In September of 2020, only 75 complaints were received for canceled or delayed flights compared to 467 for the same month in 2021.

With fewer people flying in 2020, we expected to see complaints with trips being canceled, but for that category, there were very few.

So, overall, which airlines have the best or worst track record when it comes to complaints filed?

Least complaints (per 5,000 flights):

  • Delta - 5 Complaints 
  • Alaska & Southwest - 6 Complaints

Most complaints (per 5,000 flights):

  • Spirit - 105 Complaints
  • JetBlue - 51 Complaints
  • Frontier - 43 Complaints

The Let Joe Know team also looked at each airline's track record for being on time, since the most complaints were about delays and cancellations.

Most on-time flights arriving at Phoenix Sky Harbor:

  • Spirit & United - 89.2% of the time
  • American - 88.9% of the time

On-time departure stats were not available for each airline.

Most cancellations:

  • Spirit - 3.19% of flights canceled
  • Southwest - 2.34% of flights canceled
  • United - 2.29% of flights canceled

If you're worried about cancellations, the team also found that booking a trip to depart between 6 and 9 a.m. may be the best.

More than 90% of flights during that time left Phoenix Sky Harbor on time.

The worst time to leave is between 9 and 10 p.m. Only 60% of flights departed on time during that window.

To file your own complaint, visit the DOT's Aviation Consumer Protection site HERE.