United Airlines complaints surge as April grievances lose altitude

April was a good news-bad news month for reader complaints. Our number of grievances fell to 291, the lowest level since February. But one company outperformed the group, and the reason is obvious.

Complaints about United Airlines, fresh from the David Dao dragging incident, more than doubled from last year. The airline accounted for nearly 8 percent of our total complaints. American Airlines is still comfortably in first place, with 39 cases (that’s about 13 percent of our complaints). It’s roughly the same number it had a year ago, so it’s nothing if not consistent.

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We typically receive only the most difficult cases through our help form. The grievances represent a tiny fraction of the overall problems with a company. Often, consumers come to us when they’ve tried everything, up to and including litigation.

Here’s what April looked like:

APRIL 2017
Company Complaints Percent
American Airlines 39 13.40%
United Airlines 23 7.90%
Delta Air Lines 14 4.81%
Enterprise Rent-A-Car 8 2.75%
Expedia 8 2.75%
Airbnb 7 2.41%
Spirit Airlines 7 2.41%
Amazon.com 5 1.72%
Avis Car Rental 5 1.72%
Facebook 5 1.72%

Here’s the previous month:

MARCH 2017
Company Complaints Percent
American Airlines 36 10.68%
United Airlines 23 6.82%
Expedia 16 4.75%
Enterprise Rent-A-Car 12 3.56%
Delta Air Lines 11 3.26%
Hertz Rent a Car 8 2.37%
Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) 7 2.08%
AT&T 5 1.48%
Airbnb 5 1.48%
British Airways 5 1.48%

And here’s where we were a year ago:

CONSUMER COMPLAINTS  

April 2016

Rank Company Cases
1. American Airlines 38
2. Expedia (including Orbitz and Travelocity) 17
3. United Airlines 11
4. Enterprise 9
5. Delta Air Lines 7
6. Avis 7
7. British Airways 6
8. Fareportal (CheapOair) 5
9. Marriott 5
10. AT&T 5

What to make of these numbers? I have a few thoughts:

✓ When will American’s numbers finally fall? We’re seeing a real challenge for the top spot from United, but I suspect it’s the Dao effect. And really, we want the numbers to be going down, not up. I do not know the answer. Do you?

✓ Expedia’s numbers seem to be tapering off, a sign that it has perhaps seen the light in the customer service department. The number of cases in April is less than half of what it was a year ago. Only time will tell if this is a permanent trend.

✓ Travel continues to be heavily represented in these reports, but I have some interesting news that promises to bring balance to the cases. More on that soon.

As always, if you have a problem — any problem — please don’t forget to file a complaint with us so that we can count it. Cue the “A-Team” theme.