Low expectations for low-cost airlines may mean fewer complaints

If you fly on a low-cost airline, you may complain less about the service because your expectations for low-cost airlines are lower.

That is the conclusion of a new study by an MIT graduate student published in the Journal of Air Transport Management.

The study looked at complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation about service on major network carriers, such as Delta, United and US Airways, as well as low-cost carriers like Southwest and JetBlue.

It found that even when airline service levels for such categories as delays, baggage handling and overbooking were similar among airlines, low-cost carriers had a significantly lower rate of complaints.

The author, Michael Wittman, said one reason passengers on low-cost airlines don’t complain as often may be that they paid less and have lower expectations.

More study is needed, he said, to find out whether fliers on low-cost airlines continue to choose the lowest airfare regardless of service quality.


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