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Airlines report improved performance in 2010 but complaints still rise

February 10, 2011 | 11:21 am

Unitedlax Commercial airlines reported improved performance in several categories in 2010 but passengers filed nearly 25% more complaints compared with the previous year.

The nation's largest airlines reported a slightly improved on-time rate and lower rates of lost luggage and ticketed passengers who were denied boarding in 2010, according to statistics released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The 18 largest carriers reported an average on-time rate of 79.8% in 2010, up slightly from 79.5% in 2009, according to the agency.

But during the same 12 months, the number of complaints filed by airline passengers with the Department of Transportation jumped nearly 25% to 10,985 from 8,821 in 2009.

Most of the complaints involved flight cancellations and problems with reservations and baggage. Customer service was also the source of many complaints.

Among other statistics:

  • The rate of mishandled luggage dropped to 3.57 per 1,000 passengers in 2010 from 3.99 in 2009.
  • The rate of ticketed passengers denied boarding because of overbooking dropped to 1.09 per every 10,000 passengers in 2010 from 1.23 in 2009.
  • In December, three domestic flights were delayed on airport runways for more than three hours, compared with 34 flights in December 2009.
  • Delta Air Lines had the highest rate of complaints, an average of 2 for every 100,000 passengers.
  • Southwest Airlines had the lowest rate of complaints, an average of 2 for every 740,740 passengers.

-- Hugo Martin

Photo: United Airlines passengers line up at the ticket counter at Los Angeles international Airport. Credit: Los Angeles Times