What angers airline passengers the most? Well, it depends on whom you talk to. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Consumer Reports magazine and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) have all conducted extensive research on this topic. We surveyed them about the biggest complaints.
1. Additional Fees
These days there seem to be fees for everything: checked bags, booking an emergency exit or other seat with more leg room, meal service and unaccompanied-minor service. And there's talk of airlines adding still more fees for upgraded services such as early boarding, larger overhead bins and child-free seating areas. In the Consumer Reports survey, 40 percent of the 14,861 respondents (representing experiences on 29,720 domestic round-trip flights) said they were flying less due to the increased fees. "What we found is that paying few additional fees generally translates into a passenger having high overall satisfaction with an airline," said Mark Kotkin, a director of survey research at Consumer Reports.
2. Seat Comfort
Those surveyed by Consumer Reports also gave eight of the 10 major airlines low marks for seat comfort. The airlines were also docked for other quality-of-flight issues, including cabin-crew service, cleanliness and in-flight entertainment. But it's clear there needs to be an industry-wide rethink of what constitutes "ergonomic" seat design on airplanes.
3. Flight Delays and Cancellations
Delays and cancellations constituted a major complaint in the DOT's 2012 Air Travel Consumer Report, despite the fact that the 15 largest airlines had the best on-time arrival records (83.7 percent) in the 18 years that the department has collected data. The best on-time arrival rating went to Hawaiian Airlines (93.9 percent); the worst was captured by United (70.1 percent). According to the report, the airline with the highest rate of canceled flights was American Eagle (2.0 percent), and the one with the lowest rate was Virgin America (0.1 percent).