By Nikki Ekstein
April 06, 2016
Credit: Getty Images

The golden age of air travel is long gone—this we know—but does 2016 represent rock bottom for the aviation industry? A new report indicates that passengers think so. According to AQR, an annual quality report for the aviation industry spearheaded by professors at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical and Wichita State Universities, airline passenger complaints are on the rise, jumping by 37 percent since 2014. It also shows that airlines have made considerable year-over-year progress when it comes to on-time arrivals, baggage handling, involuntary denied boardings, and several other metrics.

Each year, AQR weighs parameters like oversold fights, delays, lost bags, refund policies, and customer service—all supported with data from the Department of Transportation—for 13 major U.S. airlines to declare a state of the skies. This year, the industry showed minor improvement, as the overall AQR score went up from -1.24 to -1.21.

As a whole, the industry’s on-time arrival rates went from 76.2 percent to 79.9; baggage incidents went from 3.62 claims per 1,000 passengers in 2014 to 3.24 in 2015; and involuntary denied boardings per passenger improved to 0.76 incidents per 10,000 passengers in 2015 from 0.92 per 10,000 passengers in 2014.

That’s all good news. But registered consumer complaints rose to a whopping 15,260—and that’s not including Twitter- or Facebook-based firestorms. 72 percent of them related to flight problems, baggage problems, reservation, ticketing and boarding issues, or customer service problems. In other words, passengers are more vocal than ever, and airlines still have quite a bit of work to do.