Thu, May 30th, 2013 - By Andy Hayes

How to Complain to the Airlines

This was my view as a mechanical delay at Denver airport pushed back my flight by 45 minutes… 2 hours… 3 hours… 4 hours…

airline delays

It was downright exhausting just trying to keep up with the creeping delay – and the only resource I had that knew anything was my phone, because the gate agents working this flight 1) didn’t really know anything, and 2) didn’t really care.  It’s a shame but sadly, the state of affairs in air travel, particularly in the US and Europe, is bad.

I shouldn’t have to write about how to complain to the airlines, but it’s something I get asked fairly regularly.  So, on the off chance that you need this information: Godspeed, my friend.

Start with Knowing Your Rights

You have to know your rights before you complain – because in some instances, like bad weather, the airlines will not do anything, because they don’t have to. Your Travel Rights is a resource I have mentioned before, but the easiest thing to do is to pull up google and type “<airline name> <type of delay> <‘compensation’, or ‘rights’ or ‘policy’>” – so for example, “easyjet cancelled flight compensation”.

This makes it easier to complain because you specifically know what you are entitled to.

Pick Up the Phone

When things turn sour at the airport, the queues start growing.  Quickly.  What you’ll want to do is call your airline – customer service agents can handle most of the problems you’ll be facing in the airport, and call centres can handle volume much better than an airport counter.  This is especially important if you’re not sure what to do – wait in queue at the gate, go to a customer service counter, etc.

Social Media? Not so much.

I’ve had several people tell me that they try to use social media – Twitter, mostly – to get airline’s attention and try to escalate issues.  I haven’t seen any cases where that was very effective.  An angry tweet to an airline may make you feel better, but most airlines – a few US-based airlines being the exception – don’t offer any sort of effective ‘real-time’ customer support.

Put it in Writing

If you weren’t able to get resolution on your travel problem while en-route on the trip, then put your complaints in writing when you get home.  This is important to do if you want to file a secondary complaint with your ombudsman, for example, as you’ll need to prove that you have filed the written complaint.  Your airline’s website will have an address specifically for complaints.

Be sure to mention in your letter specifics on what you have done already, such as phone calls during the trip, and reference any policies on compensation you have found.  However, you might want to skip a mention of your angry tweet.

Photo by author.

Andy Hayes

Andy Hayes is based in sunny Portland, Oregon. When not soaking up the Pacific Northwest lifestyle or enjoying life on the road, he works on his own lifestyle publication, Plum Deluxe.

Posted : Thursday, May 30th, 2013 at 10:00
Category : How To...
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