|Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth in Sydney Harbor
My Son Andrew is in one of the Kayaks
2mg of FT asked me several weeks ago to give you a sample letter on how I complain to an airline. Sorry it took so long to get it done, 2mg.
First off, I am not the best at this. Lucky from the One Mile At a Time blog gets far more CS vouchers than I do. But then again, he flies about three times as many miles as I do, so he has more chances for the airline to screw up. And remember, both he and I fly United Airlines and have top-tier status, so we know United’s customer service system. Your airline may offer different compensations. IIRC Delta Airlines is extremely cheap with taking care of service issues, for example, and the few times I’ve had problems on American Airlines; they seem to award miles for customer service issues.
Lucky seems successful at getting sky kits or something else from the on-airplane attendants that he later submits to the airline. I have only seen these mysterious forms twice in all my flying. One time, there was a stack of them sitting unattended up by the front lav while the attendants were all waiting on passengers. I knew their value immediately but my sometimes-confused sense of “right and wrong” kept me from grabbing a handful.
Anyway, with United I always use the “Contact United” button on the website then go to the “Customer Relations” button and hit “complaint.” The questions asked are: date and number of flight, ticket number, origination city, destination city, my name, address, and Elite level status. I can tell you from my past experience that elite status does effect the amount of compensation. I was on a diverted flight once where we all got to talking the next day about the compensation we received and 1Ks received the most, followed by Premier Exec then Premiers. And I didn’t hear of a GM getting anything, although I can’t swear by it. Status pays off when things go wrong — not only in compensation, but alo in service.
The key elements of my letter discuss:
1. What the problem was
2. How it negatively effected my experience on the flight
3. My loyalty to the airline
4. And that I’ll give the airline an opportunity to make things right.
Here is an example:
Dear Customer Relations Department:
My flight from IAD to LAX on the 27th was somewhat of a disappointment. My overhead light was inoperable. The majority of the flight was at night with a full passenger load, and there was no place to move. I was counting on that flight time to finish my end-of-the-month report due the next morning. As it turned out, without that simple little thing — the overhead light — I had to spend two and one half hours at home late that evening finishing the report.
I fly United Airlines as my primary airline, and this type of thing is not common. I am very well taken care of by the management and staff of United. I know that you will make this simple and unfortunate situation right with me. The defective light was over seat 5A. Please fix the issue before another passenger is negatively effected.
I look forward to your rectifying this situation.
After this, how can they not take care of me? I was harmed by their maintenance issue, I told them I like them, and I agree to let them do the “next right thing.”
Change the issue around:
“The mechanical delay made me miss my scheduled meeting and I must now go back to the city all over again at a later date with additional costs.”
“The aircraft left with only one working toilet and there was no water for washing our hands in the only operating lavatory. On arrival I felt uncomfortable and was concerned about cleanliness and hygiene issues.”
“My seatback would not recline, causing me to stay awake and uncomfortable during the 3-hour flight although I’d planned on catching up on some much needed sleep before my meeting.”
“The broken audio on the overhead TV monitor rendered the movie worthless from my seat and I was so counting on relaxing during my flight.”
“The aircraft auxiliary power unit was unavailable and the on-board air conditioning was not working without the engines running, so we sat in the sweltering cabin (I love the word sweltering) for almost 45 minutes without relief.”
Then tell them you like them and know they will take care of you, their loyal customer. Let them decide how to do so that if you don’t like what they offer, you can go back and ask for more.
And most importantly, when things go right, write them and tell them so as well.
I hope this helps you all with your next legitimate customer service complaint.