Airline complaints are through the roof! But are they held accountable?

What happens after you complain?

We don’t have to tell you flying the friendly skies can turn into a not-so-friendly experience. But what happens when things go wrong? Is the airline held accountable? We are taking a look at the new Air Travel Consumer Report just released by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The DOT says they’ve had such an increase in complaints they are just now able to release the February data. (They say they are working on a better way to organize and respond to consumer complaints.)

  • In February 2023 DOT received 6,644 airline service complaints from consumers.
  • That compares to the 3,735 complaints received in February 2022.
  • In January of 2023, there were 10,822 complaints.
  • Flight problems were the highest category of complaints received in February 2023.

2,115 (31.8%) concerned cancellations, delays, or other deviations from airlines’ schedules. Of the 2,115 flight complaints, 540 (25.5%) were against Southwest Airlines. (DOT is continuing its investigation into Southwest’s meltdown where thousands of flights were canceled over the 2022 Christmas holiday and into the New Year.)

(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes) (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Airline complaints about refunds

Refunds were the second-highest category of complaints received in February 2023. Of the 6,644 complaints received, 1,449 (21.8%) concerned refunds.

During the past two years, the Department has helped return over two billion dollars in refunds to travelers. Additionally, the Department has issued historic enforcement actions against eleven airlines, which were fined $14.755 million.

DOT monitors airline flight schedules

DOT’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection (OACP) routinely monitors airlines’ operations to ensure that airlines are not engaging in unrealistic scheduling of flights. The Department is currently investigating several domestic airlines for unrealistic scheduling of flights.

For families traveling with kids - the DOT is pushing to require airlines to guarantee free family seating. Right now only three airlines do this.

Airline customer service dashboard

DOT Dashboard allows consumers to easily search airline policies. (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

From refunds to vouchers, every airline operates differently in what they’ll do for you if you have a flight cancelation or delay. We’ve told you before about the DOT’s airline customer service dashboard. You can check the policies for each airline. The dashboard spells out everything in an easy-to-understand way. For example, you can check which airlines will give you cash and a hotel room if the flight is canceled.

Consumers may file air travel complaints online

There are several ways customers can file complaints against an airline. First, you can fill out the form online. You can also leave a voicemail at (202) 366-2220, or mail a complaint to the Aviation Consumer Protection Division, U.S. Department of Transportation, C-75, W96-432, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20590.

Do you have a question or issue you need help resolving? Email Amy Davis at

About the Authors:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.

Award-winning TV producer and content creator. My goal as a journalist is to help people. Faith and family motivate me. Running keeps me sane.