US airlines see a fall in overall complaints.

February 21, 2020
Photo: O'Hare International Airport.

Overall complaints about service on US airlines fell slightly in 2019 but there were more grievances about discrimination and the treatment of disabled passengers.

The Department of Transportation revealed it received 15,332 complaints about airline service in 2019, down 1.4 percent.

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The drop came despite an increase in the number of passengers being bumped from flights and mishandled baggage rate of 5.85 per 1000 checked bags.

The bumping rate rose to 0.24 per 10,000 passengers in 2019 compared to 0.14 per 10,000 passengers in 2018.

Also up was the incident rate involving animals, including 11 deaths and eight injuries among the 404,556 animals transported.

The number of disability complaints over the year rose by 9.7 percent to 905, all of which were investigated.

There were 106 discrimination complaints, up 9.3 percent, that included 66 about race, 13 about national origin and eight about color.

“All complaints alleging discrimination are investigated to determine if there has been a violation(s) of the passenger’s civil rights,’’ the DoT said.

In the important area of on-time performance, Hawaiian Airlines passengers again enjoyed the US airline industry’s best punctuality in 2019 as the carrier took the top spot for the 16th consecutive year.

Hawaiian beat the US industry average by 6.1 percentage points to see its flights average an 87.7 percent on-time rate.

This was well ahead of runner-up Delta Air Lines’ 83.59  percent punctuality rate and Alaska Airline’s result of 81.39 percent.

Overall, US carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 79 percent, a smidgeon lower than the 2018 result of 79.2 percent.

Half of the 10 airlines included in the report were below average with Frontier Airlines (73.1 percent) and JetBlue (73.5 percent) the worst.

Graphic: US DoT

Welcoming his airline’s result, Hawaiian chief executive Peter Ingram said the airline’s more than 7,400 employees realized the importance of on-time arrivals to both leisure and business passengers.

“We recently observed our 90th anniversary and this ‘Sweet 16’ is definitely another achievement worth celebrating,” he said.

Hawaiian also posted the lowest cancelation rate of just 0.4 percent, well below the full-year average of 1.9 percent.

That was up slightly on the previous year with American Airlines (2.5 percent), Southwest Airlines (2.5 percent) and United Airlines (2.4 percent) posting the highest rates.