GAO reviews airline operational performance

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A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) analysis of airline operational performance showed passenger complaints to the Department of Transportation increased for 12 airlines selected for review.

According to the GAO, Transportation Department data indicated a decline in cases of denied boardings and mishandled baggage while rates of late, canceled, or diverted flights stayed about the same.

Meanwhile, officials said disability issues and discrimination complaints have also recently increased.

The GAO said airlines are required to annually report the number of disability-related complaints they receive to the DOT, adding passenger disability complaints submitted directly to DOT also increased in 2019, accounting for the second-highest level in the past 10 years.

Complaints to airlines and DOT in 2017 were most commonly about the failure of airline staff to provide assistance, seating accommodation issues, and issues related to service animals.

Passenger complaints submitted regarding discrimination rose in 2019, with 96 complaints filed. From 2010 through 2019, DOT received, on average, 80 complaints a year from passengers alleging discrimination, most commonly about racial discrimination.

GAO said the scope of work involved analyzing relevant DOT data and passenger complaints, reviewing DOT documents and regulations, and interviewing DOT officials and representatives from selected airlines and consumer advocate organizations.