After last summer’s epic airline failures, many passengers preparing for the chaos of holiday travel may be in for a pleasant surprise.
NBC 5 Responds found many signs that air travel has improved in the past four months, from the number of delayed or canceled flights to overall consumer complaints.
That progress is reflected in the numbers: During the week of Thanksgiving, flight tracking company FlightAware reported that less than half of one percent of all flights were canceled, or 410 cancellations out of 136,300 flights nationwide.
It’s a dramatic change from a particularly busy holiday travel week last summer.
During the June holiday week and Father’s Day, FlightAware found that 3.5% of all flights were canceled, or more than 11,000 cancellations out of 315,668 total flights.
Here in Chicago, last Thanksgiving week, FlightAware found that the number of flight delays from O’Hare or Midway were in line with or slightly below the national average.
Nationwide, from November 21 to November 27, FlightAware found that 16.2% of all flights were delayed, with an average delay of 42 minutes.
During the same week, 10.6% of all flights departing from O’Hare were delayed, with an average delay time of 51 minutes, while 16.3% of all flights departing from Midway were delayed, with an average delay time of 34 minutes.
The US Department of Transportation also noted in a recent air travel consumer report that the number of consumer complaints they received from August to September decreased by 15.6%.
However, there is still more work to be done.
While the number of complaints fell from August to September, the number of complaints is still more than 380% higher than pre-pandemic levels in 2019, the Department of Transportation recently reported.
And the nature of these types of consumer complaints can turn a good holiday into a bad one.
Michael Rowdon of Crest Hill recently traveled to Europe last October and said he had a perfect vacation until his flight home on Lufthansa Airlines.
“It took five days [the airline] to find my bag,” Rowdon told NBC 5 Responds. “I was very disappointed because this bag is an old friend.”
Rowdon said the airline lost his luggage and when he finally got his bag a week later, there was more bad news. The handle of the bag was completely detached.
Rowdon filed a claim for the damage with Lufthansa Airlines, in accordance with the airline’s online policy, but after nearly two months of waiting, he said he still hasn’t heard back. Rowdon says it’s the principle of good customer service for him.
“I’m sure there are a lot of people who will just write this and say, ‘Well, you know, I’m a victim. It happens.” And throw the bag away,” said Rowdon. “I just don’t think it’s fair.”
Rowdon’s experience articulates one of many areas of focus for regulators in Washington: Improving air travel across the board.
“We’ve put pressure on the airlines and the airlines have responded,” US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told NBC 5. “We don’t care where your headquarters are, if you’re operating in the US, you have to meet the standards.” our high security and consumer protection standards.”
Recently, the US Department of Transportation published an online dashboard for passengers, laying out each airline’s policy when it comes to flight cancellations or ways to contact the airline if there is a problem.
To view the dashboard that defines the airline’s policies, Click here.
There are several ways you can prepare for the busy holiday travel season.
Consumer Checkbook released their list of “60 strategies for finding the best travel deals and avoiding hassles” this year.
Here are some points to consider:
- Pack a few essentials in your carry-on, just in case your trip takes longer than expected.
- Download the airline app and subscribe to alerts so you’ll be the first to know if there’s a problem
- If there is a problem with your flight, react immediately. You’ll likely be competing with other passengers for another flight, so any information you can find before your trip about additional flights to your destination can keep you going.
- Check the weather forecast in the areas where you are taking off and landing. Airlines often issue fare waivers in advance if there is bad weather. There may also be an option to leave earlier, later or to another city at no extra cost.
- Consider purchasing a Wi-Fi tracker to place in your checked luggage. That way, if the airline loses your bag, you can be able to locate it on your smartphone, from wherever you are, and help the airline track it down faster.
- If you have a problem with an airline and their phone lines are busy, some passengers have success contacting a representative on social media to help with their concerns.
Leave a Reply