We’ve all been there during our traveling. We’ve had a sub-par experience, and we battle with the idea of saying something. How am I going to say it? Do they care? Do I want to cause a scene? Is there benefit by doing it? For those always looking to get perks, sending complaints to airlines or hotels is a surefire way to get compensation. However, there is an ethical line in the sand to be drawn when it comes to voicing unsatisfactory experience.
First, let us laugh about these Travel Complaints
I found a few quotes online of ridiculous travel complaints. Yes, these are real…
- “The beach was too sandy.”
- “I didn’t know we had to bring swimsuits and towels for our water park excursion.”
- “No one told us there would be fish in the ocean.”
- “I got a mosquito bite. The brochure said nothing about mosquitos.”
- “I didn’t see that I couldn’t bring a carryon bag with Basic Economy. This is a scam!” Yes, I hear this all the time. Personal confession: when United first rolled out Basic Economy, I hastily booked one thinking I could save $10 just by sacrificing a pre-assigned seat and I’d still earn premier qualifying miles. Once I realized I’d be getting zero elite re-qualifying benefits or miles, I instantaneously regretted my decision and felt so ashamed.
- “I didn’t see that!” The hundreds of people kicked out of TSA Pre-check that didn’t see the signs…
Now back to business…
There are certainly several instances where compensation is worth fighting for, especially when it comes to delays and cancellations of European flights. I once had a valid case where I was denied 600 Euros in compensation when United canceled my Newark-bound flight from Zurich. United kept denying my claim, but I didn’t stop the pursuit, and finally, I was paid a year later.
Cancellations aside, according to Statista.com in 2015, the most common complaint of air travel is an uncomfortable seat/limited legroom. With hotels, the largest complaint according to Travel Pulse is the hotel room being too hot/cold. These situations can definitely alter your experience as a customer.
However, situations with travel complaints is definitely a push and pull. Unfortunately, we are victims to these brands as there are only so many airline brands. However, these brands are victims to us as we have cell phones and social media.
The goal of an ethical traveler is to let the airline, hotel, or restaurant know where they messed up; and hopefully the feedback will lead to improvements in those areas. As consumers spending money, we ought to have a great customer experience. Let’s go over a few scenarios that are appropriate (in my opinion) to speak up.
- Delayed or Canceled flight (weather-related cancellations and delays usually don’t result in compensation; however, here are some tips to receive compensation in other scenarios.)
- Broken seat during flight
- Bed bugs in hotel bed (EW!)
- Smokey/unclean hotel room
- Broken tray table
- Loud hotel room neighbors
- Broken television during flight/in hotel
- Rude staff
- Non-working wifi (This sounds trivial, but for some people, this is a vital tool during their travels. Like me!)
- THIS GUY
- Lying about situations
- Breaking things in flight and claiming they don’t work (I heard a story of a guy who would purposely break the headphone jacks and then complain that they do not work.)
- Being rude to customer service employees to start a fight
How to address a travel complaint
For myself, I am not afraid to approach someone in person and address the issues, but, I ensure I am always reasonable and polite. When it comes to travel complaints, being polite will get you SO much farther than being disrespectful. Here are 5 different ways to address your concerns:
- In-person shortly after the issue arises (Most suggested)
- E-mail/online submission form
- Twitter/Social Media
- If serious enough – the government or small claims court
- Customer service phone call (Least suggested, because reps are often outsourced overseas and it can just be a frustrating experience all together)
Travel complaint compensation
Once you have made your complaint and the airline/hotel is willing to work with you to make you happy, I highly recommend making the initial offer. Of course, ask within reason. Don’t ask for a lifetime of flights for free. Ask for one of the following:
- Travel voucher to use on a future trip
- Free meal or amenity (like drink vouchers, a bottle of wine, etc.)
Offer a solution that would generally make you happy and remember to be fair.
The summary of travel complaints
As consumers, we expect consistent and great treatment from our travel brands but, there will be times where they miss the mark. I think it’s fine to ask for compensation, but it’s important not to cross the line and keep expectations reasonable.
Now, I want to hear from you guys! What travel complaints have you had and been rewarded on, or do you have any other suggestions? Let’s hear it in the comments.