Flying as an airline passenger is an often memorable experience, but there are times where the experience is memorable for all the wrong reasons: flight delays, poor service, bad food, lost luggage, or any of a number of other problems that result in a significant inconvenience or financial loss for the passenger. If you experience this kind of problem with your airline, you may want to deal with it by lodging a complaint with the airline or to one of the authorities that oversee air transportation. If you complain, you want to do it in a way that gives you the best chance of either getting compensation or getting your message heard.
Dealing with a Problem Immediately
Whenever you can identify a problem on the spot, your best option will usually be to bring it to the airline’s attention and give them a chance to resolve the issue. If you are at the airport, then contact the airline’s customer service representatives, a manager, or some other employee who has the authority to immediately take care of your problem. If you are in flight, then contact the head flight attendant.
For example, if you are involuntarily bumped from your flight due to overbooking, you are typically eligible for some email faa gov kind of compensation from the airline. If the airline makes an offer that is acceptable, take it. If not, make a counter offer. If you and the airline can’t come to an agreement on the counter offer, then everyone is happy. If can’t be resolved on the spot, you should start document your experience, gather relevant information from the airline, and prepare to file a formal complaint with the airline.
Understand Why You Are Complaining
After you have gathered information about your situation, but before you make that phone call or write that letter, you should take a bit of time answer some basic questions about your particular circumstances:
* Why you are complaining?
* What situation caused you to complain?
* What people or organizations played a role in that situation?
* What are the things that you want to happen that will address the complaint?
* What should you reasonably expect as an outcome?
It may seem obvious to you why you want to complain and what you want to have happen, but you have to be very specific in a complaint to give yourself the best chance of success. If you are not able to come up with enough relevant details, it would be difficult for even a well meaning airline to be able to respond appropriately. One must also be reasonable when it comes to the expected outcome of your complaint. You should only expect compensation if the airline is obligated to do so. It is beyond the scope of this article to describe every kind of situation that may obligate the airline to compensate you. However, following the advice in this article will likely put you in a position to know if your complaint may also lead to some kind of compensation.
Taking the time to assess your situation at the beginning will make the rest of the complaint process as smooth as possible. That complaint process can be roughly broken down into the following sets of tasks:
* Writing down the facts of the situation,
* Understanding whether you have a reason to expect a response or compensation as a result of your complaint, and
* Filing the complaint in the places where it can do the most good.
Writing Down the Relevant Details
If at all possible, you should take notes as soon as possible after you realize you are in a situation where you may want to complain to the airline. Much of the basic information, such as your flight number, or airport, is likely in your travel records. The most important details are the ones that directly relevant to your situation. For example, if you were given substandard service by a flight attendant, that detail may be the name of a particular flight attendant. If your problem were a piece of checked luggage that was lost, then you would need any documentation that was associated with that lost bag.
One thing to remember is that you should stick to the factual, relevant, and verifiable information associated with your complaint. For example, claiming that a gate agent was, rude, and charged you unnecessarily for an extra checked bag may be factual and verifiable, but discussing the inappropriate and rude behavior is not relevant if your goal is to be compensated for an inappropriate baggage charge.
Your efforts to document what happen will help you to address two fundamental issues:
1. What is your specific complaint.
2. What do you expect the airline to do about it.
Understand Your Agreement with the Airline
When you purchase a ticket, you and the airline have entered into a contract that covers many different situations that you may face during a flight, including situations that are common sources of complaints such as cancelled fights and lost luggage. No matter what the source of your complaint may be, you should make an effort to get from your airline documentation that provides the details of the agreement that they have with you. This is typically available from the gate agent or customer service office at the airport. While it may not answer all of your questions, it may tell you key bits of information such as what specific aspects of the agreement may have not been met or the address where you may send your complaint.
Each airline has a specific set of guidelines that are used for situations such as flight delays, overbookings, and lost or damaged luggage. In the U.S., airlines are legally obligated to provide specific relief if you are involuntarily bumped from a flight or if your luggage is lost or damaged. In almost all other situations, the airline may provide compensation, but they are not required to do so.
Keep in mind that if your complaint involves a potential civil or criminal lawsuit, that you will likely have to get professional legal advice to go forward. If it does not rise to that level, then you will likely be able to deal directly with the airline.
Filing a Formal Complaint
If immediate relief is not possible, then the complaint will likely take days or weeks to resolve since you will likely be making a formal contact with the airline. Be sure to keep track of any notes that you have made, all of your travel documents (ticket receipts, baggage check stubs, boarding passes, etc.), as well as receipts for any out-of-pocket expenses that you incurred. Unless you are required to do otherwise, you should only send copies of your original documents when you file your complaint.