In 2021, DGCA received a total of 5,380 complaints against scheduled domestic airlines as against 4,768 complaints in 2020. (Representational Image)
The number of domestic passengers flying by air has been soaring, and how! Nearly 356.8 lakh passengers were carried by domestic airlines during January-April 2022. Though flight/passenger numbers have witnessed exponential growth, nearly 79 percent of domestic passengers believe that airlines are compromising on comfort and cutting corners after the pandemic (Source: localcircles.com). In April alone, 574 passengers were denied boarding, 5,554 passengers were affected due to cancellations, and 70,505 were affected due to delays. (Source: Directorate General of Civil Aviation or DGCA).
Let's look at facts about airlines and their track record in terms of baggage, customer service and flight problem, refund complaints and staff behaviour through surveys and reports by various agencies.
Passenger complaints received by DGCA in April 2022: During April 2022 , 360 passenger-related complaints had been received by the scheduled domestic airlines. The reasons being: Flight problem: 42.5 percent, Refund: 17.2 percent, Customer service: 20 percent, Baggage: 8.9 percent, Staff Behaviour: 6.4 percent, Fare: 0.3 percent, Others: 4.7 percent
At the time of writing, DGCA claims that 350 complaints have been closed, the 10 open cases are Air India's.
COMPLAINTS IN 2021
In 2021, DGCA received a total of 5,380 complaints against scheduled domestic airlines as against 4,768 complaints in 2020. The top 3 in the complaints list were Indigo, Air India and Spice Jet (2019-21) (Source: Minister for Civil Aviation's response to a question in the Lok Sabha on February 10, 2022):
Complaints against Indigo: Refund: 48, flight problem: 1,679, baggage: 857, customer service: 664, staff behaviour: 23
Complaints against Air India: Refund: 60, flight problem: 1,133, baggage: 566, customer service: 1,323, staff behaviour: 218
Complaints against SpiceJet: Flight problem: 898, baggage: 163, customer service: 110, staff behaviour: 36
According to a survey by LocalCircles.com, the top complaints by consumers are: Flight delays: 41 percent, Inflight services, including meals & entertainment: 37 percent, Poor aircraft interiors: 28 percent, Airline staff behaviour: 22 percent, Boarding, check-in, baggage procedures: 30 percent, Timely information sharing: 28 percent, Others: 7 percent
Refund complaints: According to DGCA, there was tenfold increase in the number of refund-related complaints in 2020-21. In 2021, 2,259 out of 5,380 complaints; i.e., 42 percent complaints, were related to refund. More than 90 percent of these refund complaints were against Air India alone. Interestingly, in 2019, refund complaints constituted only 2 percent of all the complaints (195 out of the 9,074 complaints). In 2020, 3,104 (65 percent) complaints out of 4,768 were received by Air India which went up to 3,868 (72 percent) of the total 5,380 complaints in 2021.
Baggage, customer service and flight problem: Pre-pandemic, refund was not a big problem, most of the complaints received prior to 2020 were under three main categories: baggage, customer service and flight problem. In 2019, there were 3,888 complaints about flight problem, which was a substantial increase from 1,944 in 2018. Complaints relating to customer service also soared in 2021 – from 944 in 2020 to 1,054 in 2021. Baggage-related complaints fell to 531 in 2020 as compared to 2,091 in 2019.
Indigo: In 2019, Indigo received the greatest number of complaints related to flight problem and also received the most baggage complaints (857 out of 2,091).
Air India: Received 59 percent complaints related to customer service. The carrier also received the highest proportion of complaints for staff behaviour: 218 out of 336 complaints in 2019.
Passenger dissatisfaction: According to a LocalCircles.com's passenger sentiment survey, the highest number of airline passengers express dissatisfaction with SpiceJet followed by Indigo. Air India stood third in the dissatisfaction list, followed by Go First, Air Asia and Vistara (in that order).
Cancellations: The overall cancellation rate of scheduled domestic airlines in April 2022 was 0.12 percent with Fly Big at the top of the ladder with 7.44 percent cancellations , Star Air : 0.38 percent, SpiceJet: 0.23 percent, Indigo: 0.09 percent, Air India: 0.05 percent, Vistara: 0.02 percent, GoAir: 0.01 percent while there were no cancellations by Air Asia.
On-time performance: In April this year, Air Asia was the most punctual airline with an on-time performance (OTP) of 94.8 percent in four metro airports viz. Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai. Airline-wise OTP for April 2022 was: Vistara: 90.9 percent, Indigo: 90.1 percent, SpiceJet: 89.2 percent, GoFirst: 87.2 percent, Air India: 81.8 percent, Alliance Air: 63 percent.
Indigo's monthly punctuality average was 93.5 percent in 2021. It may be recalled that in 2018, Indigo was voted the fourth most punctual airline globally, sixth most punctual in 2019, and third most punctual globally in 2021 by the OAG Punctuality League.
Schedule compliance: Having operated 10,137 flights a week out of the 10,243 scheduled departures, Indigo had a schedule compliance rate of 99.99 percent. Vistara had a compliance rate of 88.7 percent; AirAsia India 86.7 percent, Air India 85.9 percent, Alliance Air at 76.5 percent and SpiceJet at 72.4 percent.
Safe travel score: Initiatives of 93 airlines in Asia Pacific (APAC) were assessed in April 2021 by Safe Travel Barometer in which Air India, Indigo, SpiceJet and Vistara scored a 3.9 (compare it with highest scoring China Souther Airlines with 4.2) while GoAir lagged behind with a score of 3.8.
Safe travel score for airlines is a rating initiative based on an independent assessment of more than 33 initiatives applicable to an air journey, across pre-boarding, boarding and onboard experiences, announced by airlines. There is no rating for 2022 because the monthly rating of Safe Travel Barometer has been paused.
2021 Skytrax World Airline Awards: In what is considered the Oscar of airline awards, Indigo is ranked 49th in the 100 Best Airlines of 2021 (ranked 58 in 2019) while Spicejet is ranked 88th (it was ranked 119 in 2019).
Indigo also finds a place in the Winners of the special 2021 COVID-19 Airline Excellence Awards.
Best Airline Staff in India/Southern Asia: According to the 2021 Skytrax World Airline Awards (in order of ranking):
3: SriLankan Airlines
6: Air India
7: Biman Bangladesh Airlines
9: Air India Express
10: Pakistan Int’l Airlines
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