Cases jump to a new record in January as traffic soars

You won’t believe what happened last month.

We hit 500 cases for the first time, more than doubling our volume from a year ago. Monthly traffic edged closer to that 1 million-pageviews level. And our fundraiser set a new high-water mark, with our citizen advocates donating more than $20,000.

No two ways about it: We helped more people, reached more readers and raised more funds than any other month in our 20 years online.

A familiar scoreboard — sorta

The scoreboard for the month looks somewhat familiar, with American Airlines leading, but a new silver medalist: discount carrier WOW Air. American accounted for a full 11 percent of total complaints, or 57 cases, while WOW had only 15 complaints.

January 2018
Rank Top 25 Companies Total Complaints Percent
1 American Airlines 57 11.38%
2 WOW Air 15 2.99%
3 United Airlines 14 2.79%
4 Enterprise Rent-A-Car 11 2.20%
5 Delta Air Lines 10 2.00%
6 Expedia 10 2.00%
7 Sears Holdings 10 2.00%
8 Air France (Air France-KLM Group) 7 1.40%
9 British Airways 7 1.40%
10 Lufthansa 7 1.40%
11 Turkish Airlines 7 1.40%
12 Air Canada 6 1.20%
13 Hertz Rent a Car 6 1.20%
14 Marriott 6 1.20%
15 Orbitz (Expedia) 6 1.20%
16 Priceline 6 1.20%
17 Princess Cruises 6 1.20%
18 Southwest Airlines 6 1.20%
19 Justfly.com 5 1.00%
20 T-Mobile 5 1.00%
21 Target 5 1.00%
22 Aeromexico 4 0.80%
23 Avis Car Rental 4 0.80%
24 CheapOair (Fareportal) 4 0.80%
25 HomeAway (Expedia) 4 0.80%
Total Cases: 501
Last Month: 365
Percent Difference: 27.15%
Total Cases January 2017: 317
Percent Difference Year Ago: 58.04%

By comparison, here’s what December looked like:

December 2017
Rank Top 25 Companies Total Complaints Percent
1 American Airlines 26 7.12%
2 Expedia 10 2.74%
3 Delta Air Lines 9 2.47%
4 Hertz Rent a Car 9 2.47%
5 United Airlines 9 2.47%
6 British Airways 8 2.19%
7 Sears Holdings 6 1.64%
8 Airbnb 5 1.37%
9 Enterprise Rent-A-Car 5 1.37%
10 Hotels.com (Expedia) 5 1.37%
11 Marriott 5 1.37%
12 Turkish Airlines 5 1.37%
13 Walmart 5 1.37%
14 Air Canada 4 1.10%
15 Justfly.com 4 1.10%
16 Norwegian (Norwegian Air Shuttle) 4 1.10%
17 Southwest Airlines 4 1.10%
18 Target 4 1.10%
19 Verizon 4 1.10%
20 Airberlin 3 0.82%
21 Amtrak 3 0.82%
22 Groupon 3 0.82%
23 HomeAway (Expedia) 3 0.82%
24 Orbitz (Expedia) 3 0.82%
25 TripMate 3 0.82%
Total Cases: 365
Last Month: 413
Percent Difference: -13.15%
Total Cases December 2016: 295
Percent Difference Year Ago: 23.73%
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We only count cases received through our help form. These are the most difficult, intractable problems, and they represent a tiny fraction of the overall complaints about a company. Many more questions are answered informally by our response team or through our forums. Often, consumers come to us when they’ve tried everything, up to and including litigation.

Our resident data scientists don’t weight these numbers for boardings or number of customers. That’s because we have companies from various industries represented here. However, these numbers are reflected in other complaint data, notably the Department of Transportation’s airline complaint numbers.

Traffic approaches 1 million

Pageviews were up 22 percent to 836,813 from the previous January. (Yes, we’re closing in on a million pageviews per month!) Sessions were up 20 percent to 419,113. Our number of pages per session, up 2 percent to two minutes and the average session duration, up 5 percent. Meanwhile, our bounce rate fell almost a full percentage point, indicating that people are staying here and reading more stories.

Our traffic rose at least in part because we began posting reruns — euphemistically tagged as “Stories You May Have Missed” posts — for the benefit of new readers. And those stories, which typically appear in the evening, have done really well. We’re not cutting back on original content, but our editors felt that some of our best articles had been missed.

Most sites don’t report their traffic numbers publicly. But we’re not like most sites. We’ve always operated Elliott.org as a public-interest organization, and I feel that you have a stake in this as much as anyone who works with me as a volunteer advocate.

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Our team is working behind the scenes to make this site more engaging and helpful than ever. Today, for example, a new forum is scheduled to go online, and a little later this month, we’ll also have a faster theme that will get you to the stories you love in an instant.

Best. Fundraiser. Ever.

Last weekend, we wrapped up our winter fundraiser. We raised $20,625 from readers like you. I’m very, very grateful for the help. Your donations will fund the new forum, site, and pay for the internet bills, among other things. This is the most we’ve ever raised in a single fundraiser.

Thank you!

I’m waiting for the last few checks to get forwarded to me, and then I’ll start notifying the winners of our premium giveaways, which include Boingo accounts, luggage and Southwest Airlines tickets. I’ll have details on that soon.

But in the meantime, I can tell you that I’ve learned an important lesson about fundraising. It’s generally not a good idea to do it during the holidays. So for 2018, I’m planning our semiannual fundraisers for May and October. We’ll just keep advocating during the holidays, and of course, we’re always here to help.

None of this would be possible without your support. Whether you are a volunteer researcher, a forum participant, a commenter on this site or just a reader, you need to know — none of this would be happening without your active participation.

I’m excited about the future. Just a few days ago, we made a decision to put ourselves back on a path to formally becoming a nonprofit organization. (We tried once before but it all fell apart for a variety of reasons.) This time, we’re not stressing out about mission statements or aggressive timelines; instead, we’re setting reasonable goals and working on the things that matter — growing readership, traffic and raising the funds necessary to make this a self-sustaining organization that serves consumers.

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I’m glad you’ve decided to join us for this adventure.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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