The Elusive DOT Airline Compliment – They Do Exist!


A Delta Air Lines Boeing 757 – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz


Every month, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) releases a load of airline statistics ranging from on-time performance rankings to lost bag rates and simple info requests. Within the monthly data dump sits the number of complaints the DOT received about airlines for that particular month. You’ve probably seen the new headlines like “airline complaints spike in 2014,” or something like that. That data comes from the DOT releases.


Buried in the 47-page monthly DOT report, the word “compliment” is mentioned twice


Buried in a recent release, I noticed that the DOT also reported airline compliments in addition to complaints. While complaints sometimes tally over 2,000 per month (2,205 in August 2015), the number of compliments ranges anywhere from none at all to maybe one or two. In the August 2015 release, a whopping three airline compliments were received, and I couldn’t help but wonder what they said. I simply had to know more.



Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz


I wanted to read these compliments, so I sent the DOT a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the letters. I was careful to make sure that whomever read my request knew I was looking for compliments, rather than complaints, since the two words are comically similar. I had my doubts that it would work, but three weeks later, an email was sent to me containing the three airline compliments for August of 2015.

Of the three airline compliments, two were concerning Delta Air Lines and the other was about Alaska Airlines, the text of which are contained below. None of the compliments are anything particularly shocking or unexpected. Rather, they are simply good people doing good things, and good people taking the time to make sure it gets recognized.

So why are so few airline compliments sent to the DOT every month? For one thing, it turns out that you can’t actually send the DOT a compliment. You can select a complaint on the DOT site, but to send a compliment you actually have to use the complaint form. Even if you do take it upon yourself to send a compliment, they really don’t do anything but sit in a government database.

So what have we learned from this experience? Although the airline industry has a reputation for poor service and apathetic employees, there is obviously some good occurring. Some passengers are so impressed that they even take the time to write the federal government about it. The next time you fly and an airline goes above and beyond for you, don’t forget that you can tell Uncle Sam about it.  Read on:




#AlaskaAirlines #compliments #DeltaAirLines #DOT

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