Cheap fuel prices juiced record profits for U.S. airlines last year even as customer complaints soared over cramped flights and mounting fees.
The 25 U.S. passenger airlines logged a record $25.6 billion in profits in 2015, more than three times the industry’s after-tax earnings of $7.5 billion reported in 2014, the Transportation Departmentsaid Monday. Fuel prices averaged 35% lower in 2015 than the previous year.
The average fare of $377 in 2015 is down 3.8% from 2014 and down 19.2% from the inflation-adjusted average of $467 in 2000, Transportation Department records show.
But baggage fees added $3.8 billion to the bottom line, and fees from reservation changes chalked up another $3 billion, the department said. Airlines do not report other fees to the department.
While airlines’ financial books look robust, passengers grumble about lost bags, deceptive ticket prices, poor customer service and shrinking seats and legroom. Travelers filed 20,170 formal complaints last year, up from 15,539 in 2014, according to the department’s Air Travel Consumer Report.by