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.