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Report: Complaints Soar as Airlines Cancel Flights, Deny Refunds

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Friday, December 3, 2021   

PHOENIX -- A new report shows, despite getting billions of dollars from the federal government under the American Rescue Plan, many airlines continue to interrupt travelers' plans with cancellations and are slow to issue refunds.

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, air travel in the U.S. and across the world almost completely stopped. But in recent months, as the airlines begin to add flights, customers are complaining of multiple canceled and delayed flights, denied refunds and customer service failures.

Diane Brown, executive director of the Arizona Public Interest Research Group, which issued the report, called it outrageous the airlines took taxpayer funds but refuse to deal fairly with their customers.

"The airline industry has been short-staffed, and that has caused consumers to have flight cancellations that often have a rippling effect," Brown explained.

Airlines have said their industry was gut-punched by the pandemic, and they are working to get back on track. They blamed air traffic control, inclement weather, computer outages and a lack of available flight crews for stranding or delaying travelers.

And consumers have not been shy about telling the U.S. Department of Transportation just how unhappy they are. Between February 2020 and August 2021, Brown noted the number of complaints about airline service increased 460%. And refunds have been hard to come by.

"Consumers often prefer to just get their money back, to save it for another trip versus having to use the funds by a certain period of time," Brown pointed out.

Brown added travelers need to know their rights and alternatives.

"Consumers do have options when it comes to which airline they choose, which airport they may lay over in, and their ability to contact policymakers and urge better protection," Brown emphasized.

Disclosure: Arizona PIRG Education Fund contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Consumer Issues, Energy Policy, and Urban Planning/Transportation. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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