In European air traffic, a lot has been going haywire recently. Many passengers are annoyed by frequent delays and flight cancellations. This is reflected in the number of complaints.

Many passengers are not satisfied with their flight.

Dhe complaints about air travel to the Arbitration Board for Public Transport (SÖP) have skyrocketed. In the first half of 2018, 7745 conciliation requests were received from passengers, 45 percent more than in the same period of the previous year, as the facility announced on Thursday in Berlin. In June alone there were more than 2000. For all modes of transport combined, 9589 applications were received from January to June, an increase of 37 percent.

The SÖP is recognized by the federal government as an arbitration body for rail, air, long-distance bus and ship. For the most part, it is about compensation for delays or cancellations of flights and trains. Four fifths (81 percent) of all complaints now relate to air travel, 15 percent to train journeys and the remaining 4 percent to long-distance buses and local public transport.

For the significant increase in the number of cases, “the irregularities in national and European air traffic that have been occurring for a few months are also responsible,” said SÖP managing director Heinz Klewe. “Customers feel the negative consequences of the numerous flight delays and flight cancellations up close and are demanding financial compensation based on European passenger rights.”

Bottlenecks, strikes, storms

There are a number of reasons for the problems in aviation. The airlines name bottlenecks in air traffic control, air traffic controller strikes, long waiting times at passenger controls and an accumulation of storms. Added to this are the consequences of Air Berlin’s bankruptcy last year. The Lufthansa subsidiary Eurowings and Easyjet have taken over most of the aircraft. However, their re-registration to the new owners and involvement of the crews in the fleets takes a few months.

The number of complaints regarding rail travel decreased in 2014, 2015 and 2016. The trend has now reversed again. The SÖP received 1,473 arbitration requests for rail travel in the first half of the year, 15 percent more than in the first half of 2017.

The SÖP assumes that its level of awareness has increased further and that it is therefore asked for help more often. The arbitration rate, which is the proportion of cases with a binding dispute resolution, increased in the first half of the year for the airlines to 81 percent (full year 2017: 76 percent) and for the railways to 80 percent (2017: 73 percent). Around 360 transport companies are now taking part in the arbitration process, which they finance themselves.