by Mark Albert
WASHINGTON (TVR) – Complaints filed by passengers against airlines soared 71% in April, the same month several viral incidents shamed carriers into changing policies relating to overbooking, compensation, and use of law enforcement on board planes.
Monthly data released by the U.S. Department of Transportation on Wednesday showed consumer complaints jumped against both domestic and foreign airlines.
For the month of April, the latest period for which data is available, passengers entered 1,877 complaints against all airlines, an increase of 71.4% over April 2016.
Complaints filed with the federal government against U.S. airlines surged 64.3%, while complaints against foreign carriers spiked 98.6%.
Travelers on Spirit Airlines complained the most in April, with 7.20 complaints per 100,000 passengers—14 times the rate of complaints on Southwest, the US DOT said.
Complaints Follow Viral Videos
The jump in complaints came the same month in which video of several incidents on planes went viral.
By far, the one with the most lasting and far-reaching impact was the case of Dr. David Dao, who was dragged off a full flight by Chicago Aviation Department officers after refusing to give up his seat after boarding.
Dao, who suffered several facial injuries and a concussion, later reached an undisclosed settlement with the airline.
American Airlines also suffered in the court of public opinion in April, when a video of a confrontation between a tearful woman with a baby stroller, a flight attendant, and a first class passenger went viral.
The flight attendant could be heard urging the passenger to “hit me.”
The airline later apologized.
Delta also found itself apologizing that month, after severe weather melted down the carrier’s operations, leading to thousands of cancelled flights and misplaced crews.