Airlines often take advantage of their passengers. Here’s how you can avoid that, or at least get money back.
When airlines get busy, even the smallest change in circumstances can create problems for their passengers. Most often, it’s weather. A storm can cause a delay (or two, or twenty), which snowballs into flights getting canceled, bags getting lost or mishandled, or passengers getting bumped.
So how can you get ahead of this? Try this:
- Book a more expensive ticket.
- Check-in early.
- Document everything that happens.
- Know the laws that apply to you.
- Prepare a complaint letter.
- Wait (a bit). And make sure to follow up.
1. Book a more expensive ticket.
I can already see your eye-roll from here. Flights and vacations are expensive. Why would you chose to pay more for a ticket? Many reasons. These ticket holders tend to get better treatment — you might get upgraded, but you also might have a better chance of not being bumped if a flight is overbooked.
Also, airlines like their loyal customers. If you always fly with a certain carrier, it’s less likely they’d want to upset a repeat customer.
2. Check-in early.
Airlines typically open their online check in window 24 hours before take off. If you check in early, you’ll have a better chance at choosing good seats (naturally), but also a better chance at getting any seat. Remember, airlines routinely overbook flights in anticipation that some people will cancel or change their ticket, or not show up at all. But if everyone is onboard, the last to check-in might be the first to lose their spot.
3. Document everything that happens.
Was the check-in agent rude? Were you delayed before boarding? Did you have to wait on the tarmac either before takeoff or after landing? All of these things will be very fresh in the moment, but you might forget these key details later on when you’re preparing a complaint letter. So write everything down. You can even take videos of bad behaviour in real time. The more back-up you have, the more persuasive you complaint might be.
You should ask for the business card of one of the flight attendants. Let them know (calmly) that you plan to file a complaint. This way, you’ll have a point of contact (or at least a more direct email address to send questions to).
4. Know the laws.
Every country might have different rules for how passengers can get compensation. Google yours. Try to find information from reputable sources (as in, not some random blog post from an angry customer). There are many non-profit organizations int he public legal education space that have reliable information (like this one).
Beyond what you might be entitled to, the laws will explain the process for a successful complaint.
5. Prepare your complaint.
Getting upset is easy. Getting is down on paper is hard. A well-worded complaint is short, easy to understand and very clear about what you’re after. Write My Rights can help you put this all together — it’s fast, free and easy.
6. Wait. And follow up!
Don’t expect a response overnight. Airlines have a lot of complaints to get through. But it you haven’t heard back in a reasonable time frame, send them another note. Let them know that you intend to escalate this further. You can even consider complaining on social media to get their attention — just remember to keep a cool head, you don’t want them suing you back for saying things that aren’t true and hurting their reputation.