Customers down and complaints up for airlines

Customer complaints about the airline industry have risen by 11% year-on-year, according to new figures released by The Air Transport Users Council (AUC).

The body for UK airline passengers handled 12,307 complaints in 2008-9, compared with 11,077 the previous year.

There were more complaints about cancelled flights than any other issue, with the numbers rising slightly to 3,770. This was followed by delays and mishandled baggage. New technology has also led to new types of complaints.

The AUC said it had been difficult to win compensation for the majority of passengers because airlines claimed cancellations were the result of “extraordinary circumstances”, for which they do not have to pay compensation.

Stricter legislation on passenger rights has covered cancellations, delays and baggage handling so the group described the latest figures as “disappointing”.

But AUC chairman Tina Tietjen said the growth in passengers booking tickets online had brought new challenges.

“The technology that has allowed an increasing number of passengers to book, amend reservations and even check-in online may have brought great benefits to passengers but it has also brought its own problems,” she said. “Many passengers who contacted us were concerned that they were often not getting value for money for the price they were paying for these services.”

Separate figures from law firm Hausfeld & Co showed that 211,000 passengers of BA and Virgin have been awarded refunds for fuel surcharges following a class action.



BA was fined for price-fixing on fuel surcharges while Virgin also admitted breaching the law but escaped a fine.

The refunds, to passengers with long-haul airline tickets bought between August 2004 and March 2006, are worth one-third of the fuel surcharge, between about £2 and £10 for each flight.

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