Consumer complaints surge to new record in August

The number of consumer complaints received through this site in August surged to 340, a new record.

American Airlines, which has drawn the most grievances every month for the last year, easily claimed the top spot, with Hertz and Expedia coming in second and third, respectively. It’s the first time this year that two non-airlines have ranked so highly.

Before reporting the full numbers, a few words about what they mean. We only receive the most difficult and intractable cases through the site. These complaints represent a tiny fraction of the overall problems. Often, people come to us when they’ve tried everything, up to and including taking their case to court.

But the numbers are significant. For every complaint to this site, I estimate there are hundreds (perhaps thousands) of cases like it, and when you hold our numbers next to customer service surveys and government reports, you’ll see a trend. Companies on this list also appear on their lists.

AUGUST 2016
Rank Company Complaints
1 American Airlines 49
2 Hertz 19
3 Expedia 14
4 United Airlines 14
5 British Airways 11
6 Southwest Airlines 10
7 Delta Air Lines 10
8 Enterprise 8
9 Avis 7
10 Spirit Airlines 6

By comparison, here are the July numbers.

JULY 2016
Rank Company Complaints
1 American Airlines 35
2 United Airlines 20
3 Delta Air Lines 10
4 Enterprise 8
5 British Airways 6
6 Airbnb 6
7 Avis 5
8 Spirit Airlines 4
9 Priceline 3
10 JetBlue Airways 3

Here’s our running total for the first seven months of the year. Interestingly, Expedia is only a few cases away from second place. Are they going to start an airline?

JANUARY-AUGUST 2016
Rank Company Complaints
1 American Airlines 294
2 United Airlines 123
3 Expedia 120
4 Delta Air Lines 74
5 Enterprise 58
6 Hertz 56
7 British Airways 48
8 Avis 42
9 Southwest Airlines 41
10 Viking 34

For the year, we have 2,368 registered complaints.

Related story:   Is Airbnb benefitting from "illegal" hotels?

What do these numbers mean?

Barring a miracle, American Airlines will win the title of most-complained about company for 2016. That makes its latest ad campaign richly ironic.

Wait, it wants us to be better passengers? Come on.

On to Expedia. True story: I heard from an insider who was recruiting someone to manage Expedia’s customer service department.

“You need help,” I said.

Shockingly, the person agreed with me. I guess that’s the first step to getting off this list.

Actually, any company that finds itself on this list must be thinking: What can we do to get off the list?

And at the risk of repeating myself, let me underscore that these are the worst of the worst cases — times when the company really screwed up. People don’t contact us unless it’s hopeless.

What would I do if my company was on this list? You mean, besides hang my head in shame? I would start firing people in the customer service department — and hiring people who would do everything they could to take care of their customers and in doing so, keep consumer advocates like us out of their business.

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.

%d bloggers like this:
Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.