While U.S. airline traffic fell to as low as 4% of its usual level this spring, consumers found a lot to complain about. In April, according to the Department of Transporation, passenger complaints were up 1,546% over the previous April.
And one word explains the problem and names the subject: Refunds.
Of the 19,856 complaints filed in April, 17,387 were over airlines' failure to fully or promptly refund payments for canceled flights. The huge increase came on top of a big increase in March as well, when there were about five times as many complaints as usual.
In March and in April, DOT issued notices to airlines telling them to fulfill their obligation for prompt refunds. The airlines appear, in general, to have been angling to get passengers to accept vouchers in lieu of cash at a time when airline coffers are very low.