Social media opens floor for airline complaints

Higher fees for checking baggage means more travelers are sticking with carry-on luggage. (Federal Aviation Administration)

Andrew Mollenbeck,

WASHINGTON – Airline passengers have hit the call button: Social media sites are slammed with complaints about travel experiences.

Official figures show airlines posting records for on-time arrivals, and lost baggage rates are at historic lows (with the caveat that many travelers no longer check luggage).

But the complaints plaster nearly every major airline’s page, on everything from booking to baggage claim.

“I have been having a really bad customer support experience,” a customer named Prashanth writes on United’s Facebook page. “Endless waits on the phone, missing miles, terrible website user experience…..i wonder what’s next.”

“I am hating American Airline’s [sic] currently,” a passenger named Ryan posts. “Thanks to their ineptness, i cannot check-in online for my Melb-LAX flight or my LAX-LDN flights…i didnt believe the bad stories i heard about this airline until today.”

The complaints raise questions about whether service really has changed, or if passengers simply have more outlets for venting.

Jim Oberstar, former chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, believes travelers have a reason to be upset.

“There needs to be a reevaluation of the totality of our air service system,” Oberstar says. “The airlines have earned in the range of $2.5-3 billion in baggage fees. That’s got people justifiably upset.”

Josh Marks, executive director of the American Aviation Institute, believes it’s less about performance than irritated flyers having a bigger mouthpiece.

“When you look at why people are complaining today I do think it’s social media in reason,” Marks says. “I think it’s easier for people to comment and complain than it was before.”

Even though paying to check bags is now the norm, it still leads to gripes. Oberstar sympathizes with the frustration.

“The airlines are converting travelers into baggage handlers,” Oberstar says. “You see people struggling to stuff (carry-on bags) in the overhead bin.”

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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