I Want A Free Ticket: When & How to Complain

I’m probably the most easy going traveler there is. I check in the night before, flawlessly make it through security making sure my laptop is in a separate bin, and making sure no weapons or drugs are in my bag. I get to the gate and ask no questions of the customer service reps, and I volunteer immediately if they need someone to give up seat. When I find my seat on the plane, I sit, put my earphones in, lay my head against the window and sleep until I feel we’ve touched down. Easy!

Yesterday was different. Everything flowed perfectly until halfway down the runway and the plane slowed to a stop. Instead of taking off, we were headed back to the gate because of engine failure. Of course I’d much rather find out the engine was no good before hopping off into the air, but I wasn’t prepared for the bad service and unfulfilled promises once we deboarded and walked back into the waiting area.

Virgin America makes promises of snacks and water for those waiting due to airline malfunctions and such. Never got them during our 2+ hour wait. They make promises to put passengers on other flights that will get them to their destination, but when I asked, they said they couldn’t do it, even though there were extra seats on the flight I requested. So I sat and waited and filed my complaint. Typically I wouldn’t, but I had things to do, people to connect with, and a city to escape.

When & How to Complain:

Always know what the contract says. It’s far too embarrassing to be loud and incorrect. Buying a ticket enters you into a contract with that airline. These contracts mention what will happen should problems occur. I can’t be sure, but I’m sure the cheaper the airline, the less responsibility they’ll take. Understand the policies and procedures. Read through their FAQ’s for your answer, it may be there loud and clear.

Report the issue immediately. First, write to the airline’s complaint email so you and them can have it in writing. Then make a phone call to the guest relations department. If you are still at the airport, walk to a customer service rep who doesn’t appear to be busy and doesn’t appear to have an attitude. If you’re on the plane, contact the closest flight attendant, you will check this website, they are entitled to compensation if their flight has been delayed more than three hours, canceled, or if they could not board due to overbooking.. If it’s about another passenger, talk to the flight attendant in private to not shame that passenger, especially if your complaint is about the lack of space in your seat because your neighbor’s body is there. In very specific cases, I’d call an aviation attorney to help me sort things out.

1. Always be professional and polite in tone, whether it’s a letter, in person, or on the phone.
2. If you’re going to wait until you get home to make the complaint, write down all your notes and names and notes.
3. Be reasonable with your demands. Being hit accidentally by a flight attendant doesn’t equal 20 roundtrip tickets.
4. If you incurred expenses, save receipts!

If it’s about airline or airport safety, contact:
For safety issues related to US airports, to any aircraft flying in the US, or to US registered aircraft flying anywhere in the world, contact the FAA at:

Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20591
866-TELL-FAA (1-866-835-5322).

Stay tuned for my complaint results.

Darnell Lamont Walker, a self-professed traveling foodie, has been found sitting at tables eating baby goat sweetbreads, drinking tequila, and laughing loudly with strangers. The writer, filmmaker, artist, and sometimes photographer puts happiness above all.