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The air travel experience was less bad in September

Complaints were down from August but remain way above their pre-pandemic levels

Photo (c) Patryk Kosmider
Just ahead of the holiday travel crush, things seemed to be getting better for airline travelers. But the latest Air Travel Consumer Report shows there's still a long way to go.

According to the Transportation Department, consumer complaints about everything from on-time peformance to lost baggage fell 15.6% from August to September – the latest month for which there are data.

At the same time, though, complaints are more than 380% above pre-pandemic levels.

Arrivals and Departures

Getting where you're going on time showed improvement in September, with carriers reporting an on-time arrival rate of 82.1%, compared with 75.6% in August. However, the rate in the pre-pandemic month of September 2019 was 84.1%.

Airlines posting the best on-time rates were Delta, United and Alaska. The lowest were JetBlue, Frontier and Allegiant.

Probably among the most irritating experiences a traveler has is sitting on the runway waiting to depart.

In September 2022, there were 13 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights, a big improvement over the 72 reported in August. There was just one delay of more than four hours on international flights, versus five tarmac delays reported in August.

Where's my suitcase?

Carriers handled 37 million bags in September with a mishandled baggage rate of 0.48%. That's a lower rate than a month earlier and on par with the pre-pandemic September 2019 rate of 0.47%.

The mishandled baggage rate for the third quarter was 0.61%, slightly higher than in the July – September period of 20019, befor the pandemic hit.

Other areas covered by the report include bumping oversales, treatment of disabled passengers and discrimnation, which may be found here.

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