A severe national storm contributed to nation-wide flight disruptions over the 2022 holiday season. As U.S. travel rebounds, U.S. government leaders discuss enhanced consumer protections for airline travelers. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, as well as key members of Congress including Sen. Maria Cantwell and Rep. Rick Larsen, have voiced concerns about the holiday disruptions in travel.
According to its annual report released December 30, 2022, the U.S. Department of Transportation received 5,862 consumer complaints in June 2022, compared to 1,586 complaints in June 2019. This represents a 270% increase in consumer complaints in three years, resulting from flight cancellations, delays, schedule deviations and refund issues. In response, DOT created an interactive dashboard around Labor Day in 2022, making it easier for the traveling public to determine which services passengers are entitled to in the event of a flight disruption.
Despite complaints, U.S. air travel is on the rise to pre-pandemic levels. In 2022, U.S. airports handled approximately 7.6 million commercial airline flights, up from 5.7 million in 2020. While airlines continue to serve more passengers, full rebound to pre-pandemic levels (~10 million commercial flights) may not occur for a number of years.
In the meantime, passenger complaints are likely to continue to increase and some of those complaints will result in litigation.