I’ll tell you a secret. I hate people who complain poorly or without good reason. In my opinion, poorly voiced complaints create chatter that makes it harder for real, pointed complaints to reach their destination. It recently took me four long form emails, four written, typed and mailed letters and countless hours on the phone to resolve a serious issue with an airline. When there is a legitimate reason to complain, there is often a need for compensation in the form of miles, upgrades or cash. Here’s how to make sure you are getting your fair share.

a man in a suit pointing at the camera

If your flight is delayed two hours or less for any standard issue, or someone won’t give you an upgrade on your flight or hotel because you’re pretty, let me stop you there. Things happen, it’s not personal, and in my opinion you are entitled to nothing. Shut up and let those with serious issues speak. If you have a prolonged delay, cancellation, interruption or customer service based issue this is a different story. They don’t make it easy these days. Airlines, hotels and nearly all travel related businesses have taken significant power away from the front line representatives they put out there to face you. Why? Because it’s all about the revenue baby. These entities don’t want their front line (lowest on the totem pole) people making significant decisions, which can impact their financial outlook, without speaking to a supervisor who has more scope on matters. 

a man holding a pen

As I mentioned in a recent story, complaining is useless if not to the proper channels and without merit, point, cause and effect. Twitter, Facebook, Online Complaint portals and the dreaded phone can be a great first point of contact. In most cases, common issues can be resolved dealing with frontline personnel. When they are not, don’t give up and seek other means. When you get in touch, don’t say “I Hate (Airline, Hotel, Service) they are the worst”. Instead, bring to light your issues “My flight was cancelled due to no fault of weather or my own and it caused me to miss (significant event)”. Challenge the airline/hotel/service to do better. Don’t threaten. I often ask a very fair question “Is this what I can expect from (airline/hotel/service)?”. People make mistakes, crazy things happen and in the competitive world that we live in, loyalty retention is everything. Voice your direct concerns without emotion, ask for better and let them know that you expect better. By giving cause and effect, being understanding, informed (most important) and reasonable, you give front line reps a chance to resolve your complaint on the first try. If and when they are unhelpful, or simply without power to resolve the issue directly, ask for the supervisor. Let the rep know you appreciate their effort and you understand your issue lies with the (airline/hotel/service) and not with them directly. A friend recently had a flight cancelled (not due to weather) and it caused him to miss a significant business meeting that could not be rescheduled. He emailed an undisclosed airline using their simple “complaint” portal on their website, and received 7,500 miles as compensation following these fair and equitable guidelines. 

an airplane with rows of seats

I recently had an issue that exceeded all normal operations. I was told point blank by a snarky rep “No one in the entire company can or will fix this for you”. Nothing has ever fuelled my fire with more intensity. At that point, twitter, facebook and the phone were out. Email and letter time it is. If you have had something shocking, below any expectation happen, the only way to resolve it properly is by contacting people with power. The short form is gone. I find emailing executives, whose addresses can be found from http://elliot.org to be an incredibly useful tool. I beg you not to email these addresses for small, chippy concerns. These addresses are a vital resource in dealing with large significant issues and if morons flood them, they will close. If you use these email addresses to complain about almonds and champagne, I don’t like you. 

a man smiling in front of a large sign

The important take away is not to give up until your concern has been addressed fairly and equitably. If something unfair or below company standards has occurred and you have been significantly inconvenienced or troubled, remain in contact and regularly try new points of contact until something sticks. As a point of reference, I’ve rarely heard back from any higher ups in less than a week so don’t get too impatient. Just stay at it. 

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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