Q: My expectations of the airlines are no higher than anyone else's, but the rudeness and lack of communication I experienced on a recent flight added insult to already frustrating circumstances. At the very least, I'd like to receive an apology, and I think I should also be compensated for the inconvenience. What's the best way to go about getting this?
A: With flights packed and airports bursting at the seams, airline customer service often leaves much to be desired. If you feel slighted in service, then you have every reason to voice your dissatisfaction and, if reasonable, demand compensation. The key is knowing how to file a complaint effectively.
Venting your anger haphazardly may bring short-term emotional benefits, but in the long run, you're better off if you approach your concern calmly and rationally. Airline consumer affairs representatives are deluged with piles of written complaints, but there are several ways to argue your case more effectively and maximize your chances of getting an answer or compensation. Here are a few things to remember:
- If you're sending a letter to the airline, keep it to one or two pages, typed. Be sure to send a copy to both the airline and the Department of Transportation, which tracks the number of complaints it receives and posts the results in its monthly Consumer Report. Here's the address:
Be specific. Spell out as concisely as possible exactly what happened. Include dates, names, locations, flight numbers and frequent flier account information.
Calm down and give yourself a day or two to calm down before writing a letter. You'll lose credence if you seem unreasonable or spiteful. Remember, the person reading your letter is trained in business, not counseling.
If you're requesting some kind of compensation, be specific and reasonable. For example, if you feel you're entitled to a credit of frequent flier miles to your account, then specify the amount.
For contact information on the major airlines, click "Next" below.
In addition, there's been recent growth in the number of Web sites with bulletin boards for posting complaints and sharing them with other passengers. However, posting a complaint here doesn't stand in place of filing an official complaint with an airline. Here are some great places to vent your anger and see if others have had similar experiences:
Check out "Spaced Out" for tips on how to make your next plane trip more comfortable.
Christopher J. McGinnis is the owner of Travel Skills Group, an Atlanta-based communications and consulting firm specializing in the business travel industry. He comments periodically on trends and issues affecting business travelers on the Weather Channel, CNN and other TV and radio networks. Chris also writes business travel columns and newsletters that appear in a variety of media. His latest book, The Unofficial Business Travelers Pocket Guide(McGraw-Hill), was released in August 1998. For more information, see http://www.travelskills.com.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.
Register Your Complaint
The following is contact information for some of the major airlines:
Alaska Airlines Customer Care
P.O. Box 68900
Seattle, WA 98168
Phone: (206) 870-6062
Fax: (206) 439-4477
America West Airlines Customer Relations
4000 E. Sky Harbor Blvd.
Phoenix, AZ 85034
American Airlines Customer Relations
P.O. Box 619612, Mail Drop 2400
Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, TX 75261-9612
Phone: (817) 967-2000
Fax: (817) 967-4162
Continental Airlines Customer Care
P.O. Box 4607
Houston, TX 77210-4607
Phone: (800) WE-CARE-2
Delta Air Lines Customer Care
P.O. Box 20980
Atlanta, GA 30320-2980
Phone: (404) 715-1450
Fax: (888) 286-3163
Northwest Airlines Customer Relations
P.O. Box 11875
St. Paul, MN 51111-0875
Southwest Airlines Customer Relations
P.O. Box 36647
Dallas, TX 75235-1647
Phone: (214) 792-4223
Fax: (214) 792-5099
TWA Customer Relations
1415 Olive St., #100
St. Louis, MO 63103
Phone: (314) 589-3600
Fax: (314) 589-3626
United Airlines Customer Relations/WHQPW
P.O. Box 66100
Chicago, IL 60666
Phone: (877) 225-1327
Fax: (847) 700-2214
US Airways Consumer Affairs
P.O. Box 1501
Winston-Salem, NC 27102-1501
Phone: (336) 661-0061
Fax: (336) 661-8031