How to file an airline complaint

George Hobica, August 13, 2014
Fares from Washington DC, District of Columbia:

    Everyone will end up complaining about an airline sooner or later. For some reason, I've never had to write a scathing letter. The only time recently that something went amiss on a flight I’ve taken was Los Angeles to New York on American Airlines. I had used miles to fly in first class, and although I had booked my seat months in advance when I attempted to check in online 24 hours ahead I was told to do so at the airport, which is always a bad sign. Sure enough, there was no seat for me. I asked what happened, but the ticket agent could offer no explanation.

    Instead of ranting and raving, I remained calm, went to the lounge, and asked the front desk what they could do for me. And sure enough, I was put on a flight departing exactly 59 minutes after my original flight, same seat. Because the delay was under an hour, American didn’t owe me denied boarding compensation. But because I was polite and pleasant about the situation, the lounge agent found me and handed me a $400 travel voucher anyway. Maybe I would have gotten the voucher even if I had ranted and raved, who knows. Somehow, I suspect not.

    So if you have an airline complaint, whether lost bags, a delayed flight, or poor service, always try to resolve it politely at the airport. If that doesn't work, send a letter or email to the airline.

    • Be polite, specific, and as brief as possible, citing flight numbers, seat location, employee names if known, cost of fare, etc.
    • Include your frequent flyer number.
    • It's always a good idea to "sit" on your letter for a few days after writing it in order to cool down and rephrase things.
    • Never say, "I will never fly your airline again!" since that gives the airline no incentive to help.
    • Ask for a specific remedy, whether it is extra frequent flyer miles, a refund, or a voucher, and be reasonable.
    • And remember, even airlines with stellar reputations screw up from time to time, as happened in this snafu involving Emirates and JetBlue that I attempted to fix with limited success. 

    Perhaps the best advice, though, is to avoid setting yourself up for air travel #fail to begin with.

    Here are the email/website and corporate mailing address contacts for U.S.-based airlines. Although most people like to email these days, I find that a well-written snail mail letter can be more effective since so few people send them and they tend to stand out (plus you can include photocopies of relevant documents if applicable). And you can also pay the post office for a confirmation that the mail has been received.

    Oh, and by the way, you can also use these methods for saying something nice about your flight or an employee's extra care.

    Southwest Airlines
    P.O. Box 36647-1CR
    Dallas, Texas 75235

    P.O. Box 68900
    Seattle, WA 98168

    4333 Amon Carter Boulevard
    Fort Worth TX 76155

    Customer Relations
    P.O. Box 20706
    Atlanta, Georgia 30320-6001

    Customer Relations
    7001 Tower Rd.
    Denver CO 80249

    27-01 Queens Plaza North,
    Long Island City, NY 11101

    3375 Koapaka Street
    Suite G350
    Honolulu HI 96819

    2702 Love Field Drive
    Dallas TX 75235

    P.O Box 66100
    Chicago IL 60666

    US Airways
    4000 E. Sky Harbor Blvd.
    Phoenix, AZ 85034

    Virgin America
    555 Airport Blvd., Fl. 2
    Burlingame, CA 94010

    Airlines are also using Twitter to resolve complaints, but some are better than this than others.










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