Are Airline Passengers Actually Happier?

Stop laughing, it could be true. Despite recent PR struggles suffered by Delta after a computer glitch stranded thousands of passengers, there’s news that, overall, airline passengers are happier than they have been in recent years.


Sure, this information is coming from the Federal Department of Transportation, but here’s what they have to say. Complaints filed with the DOT in the first six months of 2016 are down from this time last year. Down nearly 12 percent.

These complaints include reports about delays, cancellations, missed connections, and other similar issues. That’s not to say folks were really “happier.” After all, a lack of complaining really doesn’t equal happiness, right?

Well, the data seems to back that conclusion as well. Grievances related to discrimination were up, issues stemming from complaints on the basis of race, national origin or religion.

And this was not the only area in which complaints were up. Problems with the treatment of disabled passengers grew by 17 percent.

The report may not have minced words, but it did parse brands. American Airlines received the most complaints, tied with United Airlines, who both received 2.4 complaints per 100,000 passengers. Which, when you think about it, is not too terribly bad of a job. The brands with the best record were ExpressJet and Southwest, which both had fewer than one complaint for every 200,000 customers. Which, when you consider, is a really good record.

While Southwest and ExpressJet could definitely turn their scores into PR content for a consumer-friendly campaign, both United and American are thanking their friendly skies they’re not Delta right now.

As you might imagine, Delta’s tech snafu in recent weeks created a firestorm of angry customers and complaints. Delays were long and relief was long in coming for thousands upon thousands of customers. From a reporting standpoint, the data released does not include any complaints related to the computer problems.

Now, Delta has fixed the issue and done some things to compensate frustrated customers, but will it be enough? We’ll see as we head into the busiest travel season of the year. Another issue expected to increase complaints in quarters 3 and 4 — fare prices. Customers absolutely hated higher ticket prices, especially during holidays, and let the DOT know in no uncertain terms. Will that make a difference this year?

David Milberg is an entrepreneur and financial analyst from NYC.