Stranded passengers are best served by remaining polite.

RICK BOWMER •Associated Press,

How to complain about air travel woes

  • Article by: George Hobica
  • June 21, 2013 - 2:13 PM

Everyone will end up complaining about an airline sooner or later.

For some reason, I’ve never had to write a scathing letter. Only once recently did something go amiss on a flight from Los Angeles to New York on American Airlines. I had used miles to fly in first class, and although I had booked my seat months in advance, when I tried to check in online 24 hours ahead I was told to do so at the airport — always a bad sign.

Sure enough, there was no seat for me. I asked what happened, but the ticket agent could offer no explanation. Instead of ranting and raving, I remained calm, went to the lounge, and asked the front desk folks what they could do for me. And I was put on a flight departing 59 minutes after my original flight, in the same seat.

Because the delay was under an hour, American didn’t owe me denied boarding compensation. But because I was polite and pleasant about the situation, the lounge agent handed me a $400 travel voucher anyway. Maybe I would have gotten the voucher even if I had ranted and raved. But I suspect not.

So if you have an airline complaint, whether a lost bag, a delayed flight or poor service, always try to resolve it politely at the airport. If that doesn’t work, send a letter or e-mail to the airline. Here are some tips for best results:

• Be polite, specific and as brief as possible, citing flight numbers, seat location, employee names if known, cost of fare, etc.

• Include your frequent flier number.

• It’s always a good idea to “sit” on your letter for a few days after writing it in order to cool down and rephrase things.

• Never say “I will never fly your airline again!” since that gives the airline no incentive to help.

• Ask for a specific remedy, whether it is extra frequent flier miles, a refund or a voucher, and be reasonable.

• And remember, even airlines with stellar reputations mess up from time to time.

• You can also complain to the U.S. Department of Transportation; however, don’t expect to get a reply or resolution unless it’s a safety, security or disability/discrimination issue. ( problems.htm)


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