For the sixth year, Tigerair has scored the dubious title of being the most complained about airline in Australia.
The recent data by the Airline Customer Advocate, from January to December 2017, which has gone largely unreported, revealed the low-cost carrier had the highest rate of complaints in relation to flight cancellations or delays — with an average of two complaints for every 100,000 passengers.
Overall, the most common complaints among Australian domestic carriers related to flight cancellations (28 per cent), refund requests (26 per cent), baggage services (11 per cent), loyalty and frequent flyer programs (10 per cent) and fees or charges (7 per cent).
The annual report revealed a total of 1253 complaints out of more than 77 million passengers were received in 2017, which was up 17.15 per cent on the previous year.
Tigerair also received the highest complaints in relation to refund requests — with an average of 1.54 complaints for every 100,000 passengers.
A Tigerair spokeswoman said the airline was committed to delivering a safe and reliable service to its customers.
“In aviation there are times when things go wrong for reasons outside of our control and we recognise that the way we handle such disruptions is an important part of the customer experience,” the spokeswoman said.
Virgin Australia was next with 0.42 complaints relating to refund requests, followed by Jetstar with 0.36, Qantas with 0.31 and Regional Express with 0.24.
Virgin Australia fared the worst when it came to complaints about baggage services, receiving an average of 0.24 for every 100,000 customers, It was followed by Jetstar and Tigerair with 0.17, Qantas with 0.14 and Regional Express with 0.08.
Of the three airlines that offer frequent flyer or loyalty programs, such as Qantas, Virgin Australia and Jetstar, the most complaints were lodged against Qantas.
Airline Intelligence Research managing director and former Qantas chief economist Dr Tony Webber said he wasn’t surprised that cancellations and delays were the biggest gripes among passengers.
“Tigerair are on really strict turnaround times given that they’re a smaller and low-cost carrier,” Dr Webber told The New Daily.
“This means that they’re just as strict on refunds because the ability for passengers to buy a cheap fare means that they don’t get a refund.”
Dr Peter Bruce, airline operations expert at Swinburne University, said some airlines outsource their baggage handling to third-party services.
“Areas of improvement could definitely include better engagement with these services to create more efficiency,” Dr Bruce told The New Daily.
Monash University’s Professor Greg Bamber, who has researched airline performance in Australia and overseas for more than 15 years, said complaints needed to be handled better by low-cost carriers.
“Passengers aren’t being dealt with appropriately as they’re usually put through to a call centre which is usually in another country,” Professor Bamber told The New Daily.
Passengers are usually left to wait on hold, in some cases more than an hour, he said.
“Low-cost carriers need to step up and handle complaints more appropriately, especially when it comes to cancellations which can be extremely frustrating.”
A Virgin Australia spokeswoman said the airline continually reviewed its complaint-handling practices to facilitate a responsive and positive experience for its customers and to ensure it was complying with its legal obligations.
A Jetstar spokesman said the airline still had areas to work on, but was pleased to see a reduction in the number of complaints in a number of key areas including delays and cancellations, refund requests and fees or charges.
Qantas did not respond to The New Daily‘s request for comment.