The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has published its latest Air Travel Consumer Report, showing a sharp increase in consumer complaints.

Cancellations and delays were the number one complaint reported, as airlines struggle to cope with staff shortages and soaring demand following the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions.

Airline travel service complaints were up 34.9 per cent between May and June this year, and up nearly 270 per cent on pre-pandemic levels.

A total of 28,550 complaints about airline service were received during the first six months of 2022, more than in the whole of 2019.

Of the 5,862 complaints received in June, 28.8 per cent concerned cancellations, delays “or other deviations from airlines’ schedules”, while 24.5 per cent concerned refunds.

Last week US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg wrote to US airlines challenging them to improve customer service plans.

Buttigieg also announced plans to to create an interactive dashboard “to make it easier for the travelling public to determine the services such as hotels and meals that would be provided to them when the cause of a cancellation or a lengthy delay was due to circumstances within the airline’s control”.

Flight operations were at 85.8 per cent of 2019 levels in June, although this was slightly down on the figure for May 2022, as airlines cut back schedules in an attempt to improve the customer experience.

American Airlines cancelled 4.4 per cent of its flights in June, followed by Delta (3.9 per cent) and United (3.5 per cent).

Industry wide carriers cancelled 3.1 per cent of flights during the month, compared to a rate of 2.1 per cent in June 2019.