What’s Happening with United Airlines?

The U.S. Department of Transportation just released their August Air Travel Consumer Report for the month of June, 2012. I have been following these reports to see if United has had any improvement when it comes to delays & complaints. The United’s numbers on the latest report are downright ugly compared to other legacies in the United States.

You can access the August Air Travel Consumer Report here.

Flights Arriving on Time

DOT Report Flights Arriving on Time
DOT Report Flights Arriving on Time

Compared to the first quarter of 2012 when United’s flights arrived on time 80.9% the June figure of 70.1% is bad. It is also the dead last compared to major legacies and regional carriers.

Flight Cancellations

DOT Report Cancellations
DOT Report Cancellations

United was third as of percentage of operations cancelled at 1.6%. In June United canceled total number of 727 flights. This number doesn’t include cancellations by United Express carriers.

Mishandled Bags

DOT Report Mishandled Baggage
DOT Report Mishandled Baggage

United has, again, the highest number of mishandled bags at 4.9 per 1000 enplanements. Compared to June 2011 the number is 15.6% higher.

Denied Boardings

Airlines maximize their revenue by overbooking their flights. There is no incentive neither for full fare/flexible ticket holders nor restricted ones to actually cancel their travel arrangements even if they are not making their flight(s).

In a case of overbooking, airlines tend to try finding volunteers first by offering them future travel credits and confirmed space on later flights. If there are no volunteers, the airlines then start involuntarily deny passengers.

DOT Report Denied Boardings
DOT Report Denied Boardings

Compared to April to June 2011 to 2012 period United’s number of involuntarily denied boarding compared to number of passengers enplaned, has more than doubled from 0.93 to 2.11 per 10000 passengers.

United is dead last on legacy carriers on this measurement as well. Your likelihood of getting involuntarily bumped on Delta is about one sixth compared to United.

Consumer Complaints

Filing a complaint with the DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division is normally the last resort if the carrier has not resolved the issue using other communication channels.

DOT Report Complaints June 2012
DOT Report Complaints June 2012

The number of complaints that United has received is more than double per 100000 enplanements to compared to second last which is US Airways. For comparison, Southwest had more enplanements than United but only received 19 complaints compared to United’s 585.

Compared to June 2011 the number of consumer complaints that DOT received in June 2012 is 169% higher when adjusted for number of enplanements.

Of all the 1353 complaints that the DOT received against the airlines operating in the United States (excluding foreign) ones, United’s share of 585 complaints represents 43%.

Conclusion

Obviously the operational merger with United Airlines and Continental Airlines has not gone as expected. The DOT operational and complaint figures doesn’t paint a very rosy picture of the current state of the airline.

I have flown more than a million mile with United and Continental combined and went through the difficult bankruptcy time as a United frequent flier member in the early 2000’s. It is sad to see that merger hasn’t worked anywhere near as expected from the consumer’s point of view. These DOT statistics are just horrific.

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