While it may not be surprising that Delta saw higher complaints in March as its integration with Northwest moved forward, some of the other ones with higher year-over-year numbers might surprise you. It was a good month for most airlines, but JetBlue, ExpressJet, and Hawaiian all saw their numbers rise.
Before we get too far into this, it's important to consider that we're dealing with small numbers here. JetBlue, for example, saw 14 complaints to the DOT the entire month, and it's hard to track a trend off such a small number. But there is still value here. People don't usually complain to the DOT unless they're desperate and they've been unable to get the airlines to adequately address their issues. So a complaint to the DOT means there were probably many, many more to the airline itself. It's still worth reviewing these numbers to identify trends, but we need to keep in mind that the small numbers may make real analysis difficult.
Now back to the numbers.
ExpressJet's move probably isn't that surprising, though the increase was marginal on an already low number. The airline saw on-time performance suffer during the month with a near-bottom 71.7 percent rating. The airline also had 26 flights that were late more than 70 percent of the time during the month. With those numbers, the fact that the complaint rate only rose from .26 per 100,000 passengers to .28 is actually quite a good performance.
Hawaiian's problems shouldn't be a surprise either, though the numbers show some odd things. Though the interisland operation hums along nicely, the airline's transpacific routes continue to see delays. On-time performance on those routes was a miserable 58 percent. This awful performance has dragged on too long, so you would think this would be the source of complaints, right? Incredibly, no. None were due to flight problems, though there could just be a halo effect. People who are delayed and miserable are more likely to complain, even if it's not about that specific problem.
JetBlue may be the most surprising here. Its 79.2 percent on time performance was above average and its baggage handling was good. So why did their rate rise from .58 to .71? Well the complaints were divided between flight problems, customer service, and refunds. Of course, as I mentioned above, this only totaled 14 complaints for the airline, so we shouldn't be overly alarmed just yet.
We'll see how these guys perform once April numbers come out.