Tuesday, January 19, 2010

DOT's New Aviation Consumer Website

DOT's New Aviation Consumer Website

Have a complaint about air travel? Maybe your flight was delayed several hours or you lost your luggage. Now, the government is providing you with an easier way to vent about your frustrations. A new website - airconsumer.dot.gov - was unveiled by the Department of Transportation earlier this month and it includes a link for you to file a complaint online.

The DOT puts out an air travel consumer report each month that documents complaints by airline and category. November's report shows the number one complaint is about baggage (they received 117 that month) followed by flight delays, cancellations and misconnections.

Out of all the United States airlines, Delta received the most complaints (95). Southwest Airlines received the lowest number of complaints (14). But according to consumer groups, actual problems occur much more frequently than the report lets on. Many people may not be aware that they can complain or may not feel that it is worth the time. As a matter of fact, according to Cleveland.com, there were about 122,000 passenger reports of baggage incidents in November. That's over 1,000 times more than the number of complaints.

Tom Parsons of BestFares.com hopes more people will file complaints, "Hopefully now that we're becoming more Internet savvy, more people will take the time to make complaints."

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the website is part of an effort by the DOT to ensure airline passengers are treated fairly. Over the last few months, the DOT has had to pay some large fines for failing to comply with denied-boarding compensation rules. Passengers denied boarding due to oversold flights are supposed to be paid 200% of their fare to the next stopover or if need be, their final destination, up to $800.

In addition to filing complaints, users will find the DOT's aviation consumer website features guidance on aviation rules and statues, advice on airlines that have stopped operating or filed for bankruptcy protection, and several air travel tips. Several airlines have also been making it easier for consumers to complain using Twitter. Continental, Southwest, AirTran Airways and Frontier Airlines all have a Twitter presence.

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