Complaints surge in December as 2016 wraps up on a high (or maybe low) note

By | January 3rd, 2017

The number of consumer complaints received by this site surged last month, with a total of 293 queries, our fourth-busiest month of 2016.

American Airlines retained its title as the most complained-about company in December and for the year. United Airlines, Expedia and Southwest Airlines also were strong performers for the month.

For the year, American, United and Expedia were the most complained-about companies.

As a reminder, we typically receive only the most difficult cases through the site. The grievances represent a tiny fraction of the overall problems with a company. Often, consumers come to us when they’ve tried everything, up to and including litigation.

Here’s what December looked like:

DECEMBER 2016
Company Complaints Percent
American Airlines 32 10.92%
United Airlines 14 4.78%
Expedia 12 4.10%
Southwest Airlines 11 3.75%
AT&T 8 2.73%
Air France 6 2.05%
Avis 6 2.05%
Hertz 6 2.05%
Apple 5 1.71%
Enterprise 5 1.71%

Here’s November:

NOVEMBER 2016
Company Complaints Percent
American Airlines 15 5.79%
Enterprise 13 5.02%
United Airlines 12 4.63%
Expedia 10 3.86%
Turkish Airlines 6 2.32%
British Airways 5 1.93%
Lufthansa 5 1.93%
AT&T 4 1.54%
Delta Air Lines 4 1.54%
Oceania 4 1.54%

Here’s our 2016 list:


JANUARY-DECEMBER 2016
Company Complaints Percent
American Airlines 396 11.21%
United Airlines 185 5.23%
Expedia 156 4.41%
Delta Air Lines 95 2.69%
Enterprise 93 2.63%
Hertz 77 2.18%
British Airways 67 1.90%
Southwest Airlines 62 1.75%
Avis 61 1.73%
AT&T 47 1.33%

We’ve had a total of 3,534 cases in 2016. I’m going to do a deep dive on this list tomorrow and expand on the list.

What do these numbers mean?

✓ American comes first! It’s hard to say exactly why the airline is so dominant in the complaints department, but I remember that American and US Airways were both leaders in the DOT complaints before they merged. It makes sense that they would dominate after their corporate marriage.

Related story:   Case dismissed: A promised reimbursement, and then a denial

✓ Overall, people love to complain about airlines. Even Delta, which has embraced the JetBlue customer service model (“We’re better because we suck less”), isn’t immune to a blizzard of complaints. Could it just be an industry thing? Hard to say.

✓ For December, technology companies like Apple and AT&T had a strong showing. This could be because of the holidays, when tech gifts are often given. Then again, AT&T made our annual list, finishing in 10th place.

I’d love to hear your take on this list — besides your opinion that we should be weighing the complaints against the number of customers (asked and answered).

Why do you think we have thousands of complaints about these companies? Is there anything you think we can do to make sure they don’t repeat their dismal performance in 2017?



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