The quality of commercial airline service has declined significantly in the last several decades. Although the airlines need to cut costs to make a profit, they still are responsible for providing the basic product of efficient, reliable transportation. At times it just does not happen that way. When service falls short, it is our responsibility and opportunity to request compensation for the airlines’ shortcomings.
If a stereo system doesn’t work, the lavatory is out of service, your seat breaks, they lose your luggage, the movie doesn’t work, or the air vents hum too loudly, you have the right to register a complaint and even expect compensation.
Most of the above examples have happened in my years in the air, and I’ve found the airlines quite reasonable in compensating me for their shortcomings. In fact, at times, they have compensated me with more than the cost of my ticket.
Every airline website includes a Customer Service department for registering complaints and also to provide a compliment for a job well done. I have used airline websites and even, at times, mailed a letter to Customer Relations. I have experienced success with both methods.
The information required includes: the actual ticket number, confirmation number, departure city, arrival city, date of flight and the flight number. You’ll find this on your boarding pass. I keep my boarding passes until my frequent flyer miles post so I always have the information available if I need to submit a complaint.
Make your request factual indicating how the problem negatively affected your travel experience, but always be polite and professional in your approach. My letters look something like this:
On flight 123, May 8 from Chicago to Denver, I had the unfortunate experience of flying without an operating audio system. The flight time seemed to drag on forever without the entertainment system.
I know that XYZ Airlines prides itself on providing a quality product and felt it necessary to let you know of my disappointment. As a Premier member of your airline frequent flyer program, I have had many successful trips, but think in light of the circumstances, some sort of compensation is due for the broken audio system.
I will leave the amount of compensation to your best judgment and assure you that based on a satisfactory resolution to this matter, I will continue to fly XYZ Airlines.
I look forward to your response and a continued positive customer relationship.
Some people demand a specific compensation. I think it best to leave it to the airline if you are a frequent flyer with them. Compensation can come in the form of frequent flyer miles deposited to your account, a discount voucher for future travel, or a dollar amount discount based on the price of your next ticket purchase ($50 off a ticket of $200 or more, $75 off a ticket of $300 or more).
My past compensations have included:
- 10,000 miles for a non-working lavatory
- $50 for a broken seat
- $200 for a poor television system
- $600 for a non working personal entertainment system on a transpacific flight
- $250 for a reroute to a different airport than anticipated (plus all costs)
This technique for earning additional miles or vouchers should not be used with every flight. But every time you have an issue, you should report it to the airline. If you are polite and not overly demanding, you’ll be amazed at how hard they will work to retain your business.
And again, a word of thanks for a job well done should be sent when things go well or you encounter an exceptionally good employee. They work hard for us.
[Image via Getty]