In another frenetic month for complaints, American Airlines extends its losing streak

October was another wild month for reader complaints, with the number of grievances jumping an impressive 27 percent from a year ago and coming just a few cases short of tying an all-time record.

Not so impressive: The company with the most complaints is American Airlines, which has topped the list every months since we started counting.

Our cases surged almost 10 percent from September to 433. The record, set in July, is 438 grievances. For the year, we’re up almost 15 percent, to 3,507 cases.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines. The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

With 51 cases, or almost 12 percent of our total complaints, American had nearly three times the number of grievances of the number two company, United Airlines.

A quick reminder that we only count cases received through our help form. These are the most difficult, intractable problems, and the grievances represent a tiny fraction of the overall complaints with a company. 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.

Here are last month’s figures:

October 2017
Rank Top 25 Companies Total Complaints Percent
1 American Airlines 51 11.78%
2 Delta Air Lines 18 4.16%
3 United Airlines 14 3.23%
4 Hertz Rent a Car 10 2.31%
5 British Airways 9 2.08%
6 Southwest Airlines 9 2.08%
7 Expedia 8 1.85%
8 DirecTV (AT&T) 7 1.62%
9 Airberlin 6 1.39%
10 Marriott 6 1.39%
11 Royal Caribbean (RCCL) 6 1.39%
12 Travelocity (Expedia) 6 1.39%
13 Carnival 5 1.15%
14 Comcast 5 1.15%
15 Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) 5 1.15%
16 Walmart 5 1.15%
17 Air Canada 4 0.92%
18 Airbnb 4 0.92%
19 Budget Car Rental (Avis) 4 0.92%
20 Enterprise Rent-A-Car 4 0.92%
21 HomeAway (Expedia) 4 0.92%
22 Hotwire 4 0.92%
23 Lufthansa 4 0.92%
24 Norwegian (Norwegian Air Shuttle) 4 0.92%
25 Turkish Airlines 4 0.92%
Total Cases: 433
Last Month: 390
Percent Difference: 9.93%
Total Cases October 2016: 315
Percent Difference Year Ago: 27.25%

Here are the previous month’s numbers:

September 2017
Rank Top 25 Companies Total Complaints Percent
1 American Airlines 41 10.57%
2 United Airlines 21 5.41%
3 Airberlin 10 2.58%
4 Delta Air Lines 10 2.58%
5 Enterprise Rent-A-Car 8 2.06%
6 Expedia 7 1.80%
7 Hertz Rent a Car 7 1.80%
8 WOW Air 7 1.80%
9 Amazon.com 5 1.29%
10 Spirit Airlines 5 1.29%
11 Walmart 5 1.29%
12 AT&T 4 1.03%
13 British Airways 4 1.03%
14 HomeAway (Expedia) 4 1.03%
15 Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) 4 1.03%
16 Princess Cruises 4 1.03%
17 Airbnb 3 0.77%
18 Apple 3 0.77%
19 Booking.com (Priceline) 3 0.77%
20 Frontier Airlines 3 0.77%
21 Icelandair 3 0.77%
22 Justfly.com 3 0.77%
23 Marriott 3 0.77%
24 Royal Caribbean (RCCL) 3 0.77%
25 Travelocity (Expedia) 3 0.77%
Total Cases: 388
Last Month: 374
Percent Difference: 3.61%
Total Cases September 2016: 292
Percent Difference Year Ago: 24.74%

And here are our year-to-date numbers:

Cases Year- to-Date
Rank Top 25 Companies Total Complaints Percent
1 American Airlines 386 11.01%
2 United Airlines 205 5.85%
3 Delta Air Lines 109 3.11%
4 British Airways 75 2.14%
5 Expedia 75 2.14%
6 Enterprise Rent-A-Car 68 1.94%
7 Southwest Airlines 53 1.51%
8 Hertz Rent a Car 51 1.45%
9 Airbnb 45 1.28%
10 Amazon.com 44 1.25%
11 Spirit Airlines 43 1.23%
12 AT&T 41 1.17%
13 Lufthansa 37 1.06%
14 Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) 34 0.97%
15 Airberlin 32 0.91%
16 WOW Air 32 0.91%
17 Air Canada 29 0.83%
18 Turkish Airlines 29 0.83%
19 Travelocity (Expedia) 25 0.71%
20 Justfly.com 24 0.68%
21 Norwegian (Norwegian Air Shuttle) 24 0.68%
22 Avis Car Rental 22 0.63%
23 DirecTV (AT&T) 22 0.63%
24 American Express 21 0.60%
25 Carnival 21 0.60%
Total Cases 1/1/2017-11/1/2017: 3,507
Total Cases 1/1/2016-11/1/2016: 2,992
Percent Difference: 14.68%

Last month in this column, I noted American CEO Doug Parker’s ambitions to pump up the company’s stock. Some of you, dear readers, thought I shouldn’t be offering investment advice, presumably because customer service has nothing to do with a company’s stock performance.

Well, that’s OK. But maybe some of my old friends on Wall Street were reading, because AAL is flatlining. And maybe that’s a good thing.




American needs to get its act together. It’s just generating too many consumer complaints to be a safe investment.

As always, if you have a problem — any problem — please don’t forget to file a complaint with us so that we can help you. And, so we can count it.

6 thoughts on “In another frenetic month for complaints, American Airlines extends its losing streak

  1. “It’s just generating too many consumer complaints to be a safe investment.”

    HA! I’d say Doug Parker thinks that the more consumers complain, the more shareholders gain!

  2. I find it odd that most of these companies with complaints are also in your voting poll for best of the year. Isn’t that a clear contradiction?

  3. Year to date, AAL is almost exactly in line with DAL (Delta), and has substantially outperformed United (UAL). Recent drop is primarily related to Caribbean weakness because of the hurricanes – that’s a big region for American.

    The best stock performance from a US airline this year has been Spirit, which has the highest complaint rate based on number of passengers (the only reasonable way to compare), which doesn’t do much for the “Elliott.org complaints are a useful measure of investment appeal” thesis.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7b7af1a998e417936209c0e35e705afc6b22ec265d9382212bebcac84e1bb301.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/72b47ed77b692ef3b370e4589e0b9e47d97f5f84f66a934bd9f15cb1841632e1.jpg

      1. Spirit had the highest complaint/passenger ratio of any of the carriers for the first half of 2017. Their stock soared after they reported results for the 2nd quarter.

  4. This happens when the cur eats the thoroughbred. Is BubbaJoe123 really Doug Parker’s PR man or DP in disguise. “American will never lose money again,” DP,CEO. Current President, “We have many more ways to get incidental revenue.” Buy the company, fly Southwest.

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