Airline travel has had a variety of negative stigmas attached to it, including long TSA security lines, cramped seats, unruly passengers, and more. However, DFW airport has soared to new heights with the highest rate of airport-related complaints in the country.
Of the 20 largest airports in the nation, DFW was most often voted as the airport that customers have the biggest complaints about flying into or out of, according to a study titled “Passengers’ Biggest Pet Peeves From 30,000 Feet Up in the Air” conducted by the Austin-based travel platform UpgradedPoints.com.
Approximately 14% of the 500 survey respondents singled out DFW as the airport they have the most complaints about — the greatest percentage, according to the study. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) followed closely behind at 13% and 11%, respectively.
The top three inconveniences that passengers reported when flying are cancellations, delays, and mishandled baggage, according to the study’s results. When considering what the most annoying pet peeves are, the majority of participants ranked “having the back of your seat kicked” as No.1, followed by “cutting in line” at No.2, and then passengers “being rude to airport staff” at No.3.
The airline industry has faced many hardships since the sector was uprooted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. While air travel has essentially returned to pre-pandemic norms, sentiment surrounding the general airline experience is far from stellar.
People’s travel plans can be adversely affected when flights are delayed, or airports are overly crowded, said Kyle Beierlein, a research assistant with UpgradedPoints.com
Flight cancellations are every passenger’s nightmare, and at DFW, this nightmare was all too common throughout 2021-2022.
DFW airport recorded the second-highest rate of flight cancellations among the top busiest airports in 2021, according to a study from consumer advocacy group U.S. Pirg. This is further supported by the U.S. Department of Transportation, which found that 3.51% were canceled, whereas more than 20% of departing flights got delayed.
In terms of compensation for travel delays, roughly 50% of Americans polled believe an amount between $100 and $500 is appropriate for delays of 6 or more hours. However, more than half of American respondents (52.8%) believe airline refunds are too low.
Airports have little control over late or canceled flights, but they do have moderate control over lost luggage and security delays, Beierlein said. However, when a travel experience consists of either lost bags and security delays or unexpected layovers and nixed flights, many passengers have difficulty balancing which one is more impactful.
“Generally speaking, Americans think lost baggage is worth more than a canceled flight,” UpgradedPoints found. Of those surveyed, 20.4% think they should receive between $500 and $1,000 for lost bags, while 14.2% think anything between $1,000 and $3,500 would cover the loss. Meanwhile, about 1 in 10 said they wanted more than $3,500 if an airline lost their luggage.
A separate 2022 study by J.D. Power found that overall customer satisfaction at North American airports had fallen across the board, namely due to fewer flights, crowded terminals, fewer and more expensive parking spots, and sparse food and beverage offerings.
“The combination of pent-up demand for air travel, the nationwide labor shortage[s], and steadily rising prices on everything from jet fuel to a bottle of water have created a scenario in which airports are extremely crowded and passengers are increasingly frustrated — and it is likely to continue through 2023,” Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power said in the study.
While airline travel grew rapidly in 2022, the sector is expected to grow at a slower pace through 2023-2026, according to travel forecasts by the U.S. Travel Association. The projected slowdown in travel demand may provide airports with more latitude to focus on customer satisfaction and enjoyment.