What If I … Have To File A Complaint On An Airline?

flying-familyBy Molly Jensen

People have issues with flights all the time. Sometimes it’s because you wish you could have the whole can of soda (and then another whole can of soda), and other times it’s because your flight is cancelled ten minutes before it’s supposed to take off. Each is a valid reason to be upset. Each is a reason to complain (one more so than the other, but, hey).

There are several ways of expressing your feelings, but whatever method you choose, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Be respectful and courteous to everyone you talk to
  • Remain calm and keep your complaint brief and to the point
  • Seriously, be civil; no one will take you seriously if you aren’t
  • Keep a paper trail, note employees’ names and keep copies of any documentation you receive

It’s best to make complaints as soon as possible. Try to resolve a complaint on the spot, in the middle of the action. Or try to talk to an employee before leaving the airport. In some cases, employees are encouraged to resolve problems and issue vouchers or frequent flyer miles on the spot.

If you don’t pursue these options, file a complaint on the airline’s website. When you’re writing up a complaint, make sure you include all of the relevant details, like:

  • Dates and times
  • Airports (to and from)
  • Flight numbers
  • Seat location
  • Frequent-flyer number
  • Employee names
  • Baggage claim documents
  • Cost of the flight
  • Photos of damages
  • Your contact information, including your name as it appeared on your reservation
  • And obviously a clear, factual description about what dissatisfied you

As mentioned above, keep the complaint brief. There’s no need to write a paragraph saying how upset you were using every synonym for angry; just stating, “I was angry about getting bumped from my flight,” will convey your message just fine.

At the end of the complaint, you can suggest what you believe would be fair compensation for your situation, but be reasonable. Realize that airlines are a lot more likely to give a voucher or frequent-flyer miles than cash.

If you aren’t getting a response from the airline or if you really want your complaint to stand out, send a handwritten note. Nothing says “I’m frustrated” like some illegible scribbles. Just make sure the important details (listed above) are readable.

You can also turn to social media, especially Twitter. Some airlines, like Delta and British Airways, are faster at responding and resolving an issue on Twitter than any other form of communication. Something about instantly telling thousands of people you’re frustrated can really move things along. The only issue with Twitter is the limited number of characters to explain your issue.

For those of you who like picking up the phone, you can call the airline directly, but remember: paper trail. Note the date and time of your call, who you talked to, what you talked about, and so forth. If you’re particularly persnickety about this sort of thing, record the conversation – but be sure to inform the people you’re speaking with that the conversation is being recorded.

What if you aren’t feeling heard? You’ve sent a letter, you’ve called, and you think your 13-year-old cousin is the only person who saw your tweets. Well, there are organizations you can contact:

Hopefully you don’t have to use every form of communication to get your issue resolved. Maybe if you just ask politely, you can get that second whole can of soda. One never knows.

Molly Jensen is a member of the editorial team at Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection. And of course she recommends AirCare and ExactCare for all your travels.