DOT won’t register social media complaints


Airline passengers may do most of their complaining on social media but the US Department of Transportation (DOT) has absolutely no intention of formally registering these complaints.

The DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division, which is the intake point for consumer complaints about airline service other than safety or security issues, has established various channels for consumers to submit complaints, including electronically via web form and by sending a letter or calling the division.

“We do not envision accepting airline consumer complaints via social media in the near future because we are concerned about privacy issues with the use of such sites for handling consumer complaints,” says a DOT spokesperson.

“In 2011, we had considered requiring airlines to respond to consumer complaints sent through social networking sites but ultimately decided against it. In comments submitted to that rulemaking, consumer groups such as the Association for Airline Passenger Rights had remarked that social networking sites are not an appropriate venue for filing complaints.”

On the one hand, the DOT’s prerogative on this issue is understandable; forcing passengers to take formal measures – to, in essence, jump through a few hoops – may weed out individuals who simply have an axe to grind and relish in their ability to do so on social media. On the other hand, however, one wonders if the DOT shouldn’t still consider adopting some social media monitoring and analytics, as part of its overall monitoring of consumer complaints.

For instance, the DOT recently reported that, during November 2013, airline consumer complaints filed with the Aviation Consumer Protection Division were down 23.6% from November 2012 and down 11.9% from October 2013. Do these figures mean that consumers are complaining less about airline service or simply that they now do more of their complaining on social media?

By the way, this question was posed by a number of travelers on Twitter when the DOT’s report was released.

Meanwhile, some passengers are registering their ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ about the passenger experience via the #PaxEx hashtag on Twitter and Instagram and – so far – the conversation has been pretty civil.