While complaining to an airline may be easy, I personally think there’s an art to it that should be noted. It’s important to understand that there are two ways and each, I believe have a different outcome, based on what you desire:
- If you’re trying to get compensation for your issue, call the airline’s customer service department. Why? Hearing someone else’s voice and their tone and talk allow the agent to sympathize with you. If they’re upset for you, you’re likely to receive compensation.
- If you’re trying to have the issue rectified in the future and forwarded to management, write the airline’s customer service department. Why? Written comments can be directly sent to upper management, or officials in charge of the problem. Plus, it creates a written paper trail, and if the airline see’s multiple complaints of the same nature, it indicates a recurring issue, and a possible need for fixing.
While these aren’t foolproof methods, in my experience, each method has a slightly different outcome.
When complaining, it’s important not to “vomit” and yell. The person on the other end of your communication is human, just like you, and in many instances, has no direct control over the matter, but is simply passing it along to someone who does.
Explain the problem – Too often, folks don’t explain the actual issue that occurred. Sure, the food was terrible, but what was terrible about it? Was something undercooked, too salty, not hot enough? If the issue isn’t documented properly, there’s no chance at it getting fixed in the future.
Request a solution – It can’t hurt to request what you want as compensation, though keep in mind, you’re not guaranteed to receive that in return. Often, airlines have some sort of matrix or policy that dictates what they’l give you in return. That said, I think it’s fair to state what you’re requesting, for full an open disclosure.
Be yourself – While form letters are easy to copy and paste, I don’t think they get the full gravity of the situation across to the person reading your inquiry. If they receive consistent copy and paste replies, they’ll begin to ignore the larger message, so I think it’s important to write a personal message, even if not as detailed or wordy as a form letter.
Give praise – If something went right, say it. I can’t imagine that everything on your flight went poorly, and it’s worth mentioning the great things that happened, the staff that assisted you, or processes you were impressed with. Mentioning good with the bad helps your story, without seeming that you’re a pest in complaining.
Don’t be pompous – Yes, your status matters, but by repeating your Diamond level, Executive Platinum tier, or credit card membership a million times in your letter, you start to sound like you’re “above the law.” In my suggestion, it’s worth maybe stating once at the beginning, and once in your signature. So, as an example, “My name is Joe Smith and I am a Diamond member with your airline, and recently flew on flight XYZ from YYY to ZZZ…” Don’t repeat it to death.
You’re much better off getting the results you want when you’re calm, cool and collected. If on the phone, make small talk with the agent. Maybe crack a joke or two, or comment on the city you visited. You’ll be surprised at the positive results you’ll get.
What are your tips for complaining to an airline?
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