American Gets The Most Complaints Of A US Airline For 2nd Year

The United States Department of Transportation has released its report from 2019 highlighting airline complaints from the year. Unfortunately for American Airlines, the carrier ended up taking the top spot in terms of the outright number of complaints. But, the numbers are not all that bad for a carrier which had over 155 million passenger enplanements in 2019.

American Airlines 737 Getty
American Airlines had over 2,500 passenger complaints in 2019. Photo: Getty Images

Passenger complaints from 2019

The United States Department of Transportation released its statistics for passenger complaints from 2019 here. Here are the top airlines in the United States (including regional carriers) by the number of complaints against them in 2019:

  1. American Airlines: 2,553 complaints
  2. United Airlines: 1,643 complaints
  3. Spirit Airlines: 964 complaints
  4. Delta Air Lines: 826 complaints
  5. Frontier Airlines: 581 complaints
  6. Southwest Airlines: 535 complaints
  7. JetBlue Airways: 412 complaints
  8. Allegiant Air: 234 complaints
  9. Alaska Airlines: 212 complaints
  10. Skywest Airlines: 179 complaints
  11. Envoy Air: 164 complaints
  12. Mesa Airlines: 118 complaints
  13. Hawaiian Airlines: 85 complaints
  14. PSA Airlines: 83 complaints
  15. Republic Airways: 73 complaints
  16. Endeavor Air: 57 complaints
  17. ExpressJet Airlines: 43 complaints
United Airlines Denver
United had over 1,600 passenger complaints in 2019. Photo: Getty Images

However, those numbers are not entirely reflective of the overall status of each airline. Here is the ranking from airlines with the most to least number of complaints per 100,000 enplanements:

  1. Spirit Airlines: 2.85
  2. Frontier Airlines: 2.57
  3. American Airlines: 1.64
  4. Allegiant Air: 1.55
  5. United Airlines: 1.41
  6. Envoy Air: 1.09
  7. JetBlue Airways: 0.96
  8. Mesa Airlines: 0.78
  9. Hawaiian Airlines: 0.74
  10. ExpressJet Airlines: 0.71
  11. Alaska Airlines: 0.60
  12. PSA Airlines: 0.55
  13. Delta Air Lines: 0.51
  14. Skywest Airlines: 0.42
  15. Republic Airways: 0.39
  16. Endeavor Air: 0.38
  17. Southwest Airlines: 0.33
Spirit Airlines
Spirit had the most customer complaints per 100,000 enplanements. Photo: Jay Singh – Simple Flying

Why did American get the most number of complaints?

The Department of Transportation report broke down these complaints for each category. Here’s how American fared:

  • Flight Problems: 1,088 complaints
  • Oversales: 65 complaints
  • Reservation, Tickets, Boarding issues: 242 complaints
  • Fares: 145 complaints
  • Refunds: 106 complaints
  • Baggage: 299 complaints
  • Customer Service: 310 complaints
  • Disability: 217 complaints
  • Advertising: 3 complaints
  • Discrimination: 24 complaints
  • Other: 54 complaints
American Airlines Dallas
American had just over 1,000 complaints about flight problems. Photo: Getty Images

The Department of Transportation defines flight problems as cancellations, delays, or any other deviations from schedule, whether planned or unplanned. American cited the 737 MAX grounding and labor issues with a mechanics’ union that pulled a number of aircraft out of service as one reason why operations were disrupted. This likely did contribute to a number of American’s passenger complaints from 2019. However, with some of those issues out of the way, American is optimistic about improving flight performance.

American Airlines 737-800 aircraft
American faced some operational challenges in 2019. Photo: Getty Images

Low-cost carriers take some heat

In terms of passenger complaints per 100,000 enplanements, American did not take the top spot. Rather, the top spot went to Spirit followed by Frontier. Both of these carriers also took the top spots in 2018 for the same category. Although, Frontier was number one in 2018 while Spirit was number two.

American Gets The Most Complaints Of A US Airline For 2nd Year
Frontier Airlines took some heat in 2019. Photo: Frontier Airlines


While American Airlines took the top spot in terms of the number of complaints in 2019, the airline cited operational difficulties stemming from the 737 MAX grounding and labor issues as one significant reason for customer complaints. 2020 will show whether or not this pays off for American.

What do you make of 2019’s passenger complaint statistics? Let us know in the comments!