For airline passengers, 2011 was best of times, worst of times

The latest federal statistics that measure the performance of the nation’s airlines offered some good news for passengers and some bad.

First the good news: In 2011, the airlines set new records for the lowest rate of lost or mishandled baggage and the lowest rate of passengers bumped from overbooked flights.

In 2011, the department received 3.39 reports of mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers, the lowest rate since the Transportation Department began keeping track of lost bag reports in 1988.

U.S. airlines also reported a rate of 0.81 passengers bumped from overbooked flights per 10,000 passengers, the lowest number since the department started keeping records of the category in 1995.

Airline representatives attributed the improved performance to better technology, training and procedures.

“Our members are committed to and are delivering levels of safety and customer service that no other industry, given its complexity, matches,” said Nicholas E. Calio, president of Airlines for America, a trade group that represents the nation’s largest airlines. “The airlines are working to improve on that every day, making air travel even safer and more efficient for passengers and shippers.”

But the latest statistics also had some bad news.

For 2011, the Transportation Department received 11,545 complaints about airlines service, a 5.1% increase over the 10,988 complaints received in 2010, and 30% higher than the 8,821 complaints filed in 2009.


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