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How to Write a Complaint Letter to an Airline

Communicate your air travel complaints effectively.

When things go awry with a flight, writing an effective complaint letter to the airline can be daunting. Janet Libert, Executive Travel’s editor, offers these tips:

  • Include your contact info: name, address, home and work phone numbers, and email address.
  • Type your letter if possible. If it is handwritten, make sure it is neat and easy to read.
  • Make your letter brief and to the point.
  • Remember to include all important facts about your flight, including the flight number, date of travel, airport at which the flight problem occurred, name of the airline or airport employees you dealt with and any other relevant information about the problem.
  • Know the rules and policies you agreed to when you bought the ticket.
  • State exactly what actions you would like taken to compensate you for the you would like done about the problem and how long you are willing to wait to get it resolved. Be reasonable.
  • Include all documents (such as the airline ticket) regarding your problem. Be sure to send COPIES of these documents, not originals.
  • Avoid writing an angry, sarcastic, or threatening letter. Most likely, the person reading your letter was not responsible for your problem but may be very helpful in resolving it.
  • Keep a copy of the letter for your records.
  • Using social media such as Twitter or Facebook is another way to lodge a complaint. Again, keeping the tone civil will increase your chance of being contacted by the airline to resolve the issue.

Sample Complaint Letter:

To Whom It May Concern,

Paragraph 1: Briefly and clearly state the overall problem and what you expect from the airline. Include details and dates. If applicable, remind them that you are a loyal customer, one that is worth helping. Example:

I’m writing to report an incident that occurred during [flight information and date]. I have always been a loyal patron of [airline], but this recent incident, which involved [briefly state problem], has spurred me to file a formal complaint and obtain [what you want, i.e. monetary compensation] for my grievances.

Paragraph 2: Describe the incident as clearly and succinctly as possible. Do not whine about the issue—rather, form an argument proving why you should be compensated. Be logical and methodical.

Paragraph 3: State what compensation you want, what you expect the airline to do, whether it is to provide a voucher, cash, procedure change—be clear. Include follow-up actions with a reasonable deadline to reply. Example:

“Please contact me before November 1st to confirm that my requests will be honored. If I do not hear from you by then, I will report this incident to the appropriate agencies [list them].”

Signature: include all contact information, enclose supporting copies of supporting documents, and CC the appropriate associations.

Other Resources:

  • The Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division (for issues related to a U.S. airlines or non-U.S. airlines operating in the U.S.): website.
  • TSA (for security issues): 1-866-289-9673, email: TSA-ContactCenter@dhs.gov, or website.
  • FAA (for safety issues): 1-866-TELL-FAA (1-866-835-5322) or website.

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