SOURCE: United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA)

March 27, 2008 10:12 ET

Airlines Top List of Consumer Complaints

USTOA Member Survey Reveals Money Issues Are a Distant Second

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - March 27, 2008) - Airline-related issues overwhelmingly outnumber all complaints tour operators receive from travelers, according to an informal member survey conducted by the U.S. Tour Operators Association. The association -- whose members send 11 million people on vacation yearly -- reported that over 70% of responding tour operators cited airline problems as the most common complaint, followed by money-related issues, reported by 20% of members.

Missed connecting flights because of airline delays and cancellations were the most common airline-related complaint, with lack of service coming in second. Other complaints cited were airline cutbacks, full/overbooked flights, and lengthy check-in procedures including security. The hassle of flying caused one responding tour operator to say: "Airline travel is not fun," noting that the vacation now begins once the traveler arrives at the destination, rather than the flight being considered part of the vacation.

Money-related concerns such as high air fares, added taxes, fuel surcharges and the European exchange rate came in a distant second in terms of consumer complaints. Of these, the most common complaints concerned airlines and the weak dollar.

A minority of USTOA tour operators and vacation packagers cited dissatisfaction with hotel accommodations as a source of complaints. "In the past, most complaints centered around accommodations due to unrealistic expectations among some travelers who expected to find U.S. standards in other countries. However, today the type of complaint has shifted, where airline-related issues account for the vast majority of complaints," says Bob Whitley, USTOA president.

The survey was based on responses of 33 total operators representing over half of USTOA's Active Corporate members. USTOA's members have met the travel industry's highest standards including participation in the USTOA Travelers Assistance Program, which requires, among other things, that all members set aside $1 million to reimburse consumers in case of bankruptcy or other default. For more information on USTOA consult www.ustoa.com or www.ustoa.travel.