Airline Complaints Sky High

Airline passenger customer complaints have more than doubled since May 1998 and are now at an all-time high.

Critics are crying out for more progressive reforms to the airline industry and slamming the Â"Customer ServiceÂ" package that the industry introduced in May to head off the proposed congressional passenger bill of rights.

Opponents of the package say it does not go far enough and complain about the lack of an enforcement division to ensure changes take place.

Â"It is a rehash of the same thing theyÂ've had, which is clearly not serving the passengersÂ' needs,Â" Joe Galloway, president of the American Society of Travel Agents, told CBS This Morning.

Dave Fuscus of the Air Transport Association of America said complaints are on the rise for a number of reasons, including:

  • Delays from the air traffic control system have increased 100%
  • Planes are more full than theyÂ've ever been
  • Air fares are at a record low
Â"All of these add to a sense of frustration with passengers,Â" Fuscus said. Â"This is the main reason we came forward with the package to try to address customersÂ' needs. We need to improve customer service and weÂ're moving towards that with this plan.Â"

Â"Safety is our first priority,Â" Fuscus said.

Galloway said he is supporting another House bill which Â"puts teeth in what [the airlines are] saying. What theyÂ're saying is fine, but it has no teeth.Â"

Galloway's group would like customers to know in advance if a flight is going to be delayed or if it is oversold.

Overbookings are on the rise on U.S. airlines. In the first three months of this year, Delta Air Lines Â"involuntarily deniedÂ" boarding to 8,144 passengers — nearly as many as the other nine major carriers combined, according to new Transportation Department statistics.

United Air Lines had the second highest total, with 2,142 passengers bumped, and Southwest Airlines was third, with 1,938 passengers bumped.

Involuntary bumpings occur when an airline oversells seats on a flight to guard against passengers who don't show up, but then can't find enough volunteers to give up their seats and take a later flight.

Airlines contend the long-standing practice benefits the consumer, because overbooking allows them to keep flights full and air fares down. An average of 10 percent to 15 percent of the passengers holding tickets for a flight never show up at the gate.