How to complain to the Airlines: Effective ways to get Ahead

I ran into an article about how to complain to the Airlines by Sascha Segan. The article talks about different ways to get your voice heard by the airline and I wanted to give my two cents — after all I should be the “professional”.

The author, Sascha Segan, says he spoke with airline representatives and travel experts to find the best ways to make your complaint. I find his findings interesting, but at the end of day not that useful for the consumer.

Here’s his list:

  1. The first way to make the complaint is to try to resolve the problem on the spot

This definitely the best way to do it. You get your problem taken care of right away, you don’t have to wait for a reply and you get to speak with an actual person.

2. Write a complaint

If you didn’t have time to talk to the staff at the airport or you just wanted to get some air and then tell them your story, this is a rather good option. Segan reminds us that the complaint should have all the necessary details like flight date and number, and of course what happened. The complaint letter should be as short as possible and without tens of exclamation points. Those will not get your problem resolved any faster.

Segan also points out that you should use a proper grammar, spelling, punctuation and capitalization. To speed things up you should also tell what you want: a refund or something else. In addition if you have any documentation like photos — be sure to attach them.

A) Segan tells us to start with the official channels.

That’s most likely the straightest way but no where near the fastest of most the effective. And here’s why:

It takes up to 60 days for American Airlines to respond to customer complaints.

For Delta Air Lines it takes 30 days to get your message through and another 30 days to get an actual answer. JetBlue and Spirit Airlines have the “promise” (for real 60 days — are you kidding me?)

Southwest Airlines stands out with United Airlines who both pledge they will respond to complaints within 5 days.

B) If you don’t get a reply, Segan proposes you escalate.

By this he means you print your complaint and you send it to specific people at the organisation. Via old school mail. Segan also mentions U.S Department of Transportation and the Better Business Bureau, that might be able to help you structure your complaint letter.

3. Get professional help

As second to last option Segan tells us to hire an ombudsman or a journalist. This is a scaring tactic against the airlines that has worked in the past. We’ve all seen those United videos…

4. The final way is to launch an “executive email carpet bomb”.

Segan tells us that this is an absolute last resort and not for the weak. He says this tactic has been successful in the past but requires some time to dig out those emails.

So four ways: resolve it on the spot, write a complaint, get ninjas working for you or spam the CEO with emails.

I must say I was expecting something better. After all, I do this for living, so I decided to publish my own listing that is quite a lot more consumer friendly.

Here’s my list:

  1. The first way to make the complaint is to try to resolve the problem on the spot

This was a no-brainer. Always do it on the spot without any other hassle.

2. Get your phone and call them

It takes 30 or even 60 days for an Airline to respond to you via email, but maximum 15–30 minutes if you just call them. Most of the airlines provide a customer support number that might cost you some but it gets you in front of them.

3. Write a complaint

If you don’t like handling the problem by phone, writing a clear and structured complaint letter is the least painful way to do it. But unlike Segan, I definitely do not recommend you to send your complaint via email using official channels. Do you know why? That’s because it’s impossible to find any email address. So, my first option is:

A) Publish your complaint letter on

Wait what’s this, you ask? This is the easiest and most effective way to get your problem resolved. You just write your complaint on the site and they will take care of the rest. Guys at will contact the right people at the airline and won’t stop before you get a reply.

With you get the extra attention for your story because the complaint letter is public. So do not write in all of your personal information, but just enough that they can help you. You can, however, give your phone number in private so that the airline can contact you directly. This is quite recommended for a faster reply.

As a bonus, gets a lot of reporter attention. For you this means that your story might get picked. The reporter attention also keeps the airlines on their toes and makes them reply faster. Remember to use a username if you don’t want your name in the news!

B) Use the official channels

It’s not that fast or effective, but it will get you there. There are many problems with this approach because you are on your own and they also know it. You have to take what they offer you.

C) Use U.S Department of Transportation or BBB

These organizations mainly help you structure the complaint letter. They will forward complaints to the airlines, but because they get tons of complaints all the time, it might take as long as it would via direct channels. They can give you some legal advice if the complaint is rejected.

4. Launch the “executive email carpet bomb”

I like this approach because you get to talk with the people who can do something about your problem — and speed things up. I must remind you that it’s not that easy to find those emails or get thought the clutter. You also should keep the email as brief as possible and keep it formal. Exclamation points won’t help you there either.

5. Get professional help

It’s funny that Segan proposed getting a journalist to help you, I would have guessed he’d recommend a layer. Anyway, getting your story seen by a lot on people usually makes a greater impact than an individual email. This might cost you a lot and it’s not that easy to find a journalist who would write about your horrors. Legal help is also a sure way to get things done but costly.

So, there you have it. My personal top 5 on how to complain to the airlines.

It’s probably not exhaustive and that’s why I need your help to make this perfect!

What do you think, which way is for you? Please comment and tell what should be added!

Thanks for reading,



Here are the links for the different services: