How to Complain to an Airline, Hotel or Rental-Car Company

These ideas are lightly distilled and amplified from the end of a post at  The entire post covers a variety of topics and is a worthwhile read.

How to Complain Effectively to an Airline, Hotel or Rental Car Company

  • Remain calm. Whoever raises their voice first, loses. If it’s you, you might even be detained and questioned by the TSA or local police.
  • If possible, talk to a person with the ability to give the outcome you desire. Don’t complain to a flight attendant about the price of airline tickets…s/he has no control over that. Some airports have desks of specially-trained airline agents in the secure area, who can help resolve issues. If you have access to an airline lounge, the agents there can be exceptionally helpful.
  • Distill your complaint down to one specific item, maybe two. For example, “The room smells like mildew.” Any more will overwhelm the person you are complaining to, so they won’t do anything helpful. (I use the term mildew rather than mold, to keep the discussion more civil.)
  • Decide in advance what compensation you will accept. Is it 5000 frequent-flyer miles, or a free drink, or a room upgrade, or a free night, or elimination of toll-road charges?
  • Ask questions that require more than a yes/no answer, because it’s too easy for the person you are speaking with to just say “No.” Example questions are “What can you do to help me?” and “Can you see my frustration?” and “What do you typically do in a situation like this?”
  • Follow the airline or hotel chain on Twitter in advance, so you can Direct Message them a tweet about a situation that arises. This will often lead to a good outcome, even if you are a relative nobody in the Twitterverse.

With luck, you will get at least as good a result as you had hoped for. If you are offered more, graciously accept and don’t argue or prolong the conversation.

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