October 26, 2012 The benefits of a proper complaint letter
This post is about the benefits of a complaint letter to an airline. It may read like a trip report but wait for it.
Over the weekend I was on a mileage run from Phoenix, AZ to Albany, NY connecting in New York City. I would be in Albany for a grand total of twenty minutes. Granted when I planned this trip I saw numerous places where it could go wrong, most notably in NYC where delays are common place. The problem in my trip happened right where I expected it to, in NYC connecting to my flight to Albany. The arriving flight in NYC from Savannah was delayed some 20 minutes because of a series of cascading delays that started two days previous. By the time they got to my flight the hours of delays were down to that twenty minutes. In addition there was some sort of bag problem, golf bags that couldn’t be unloaded, which delayed my flight further. So, by the time I got to Albany I had missed my flight out of Albany and I was stuck there for the night. Now it was time to sort the mess that would come from that.
I found the Albany gate agent walking away from the gate where the connecting flight had just left from. I explained the situation to him and he began the process of rebooking me for flights on the following day, I also asked for a hotel for the night. During that process, I found another person who was on the same flights as me. Apparently, he noticed me on the flight from Phoenix and just now got around to saying something. He and I were rebooked for the same flights and given vouchers for the Holiday Inn Albany. The Holiday Inn was about what expected, other than the restaurant. The restaurant was good; the rest of the hotel was meh. I headed off to my room to find two full-sized beds and a meh hotel room that looked over the hotel video arcade. I logged on to the internet with my computer and discovered there was one seat left on a flight that got into Phoenix four hours earlier. I called the airline and had them rebook me for that flight. The following morning I made my flight out of Albany. In my connection city, I tried to get bumped off of the flight to Phoenix but it went out with empties. I made it back to Phoenix and then drove an hour and half back to Sedona where I live.
Normally, that would be the end of the story but it’s not. The person I met and I were both going to file complaints regarding what happened. He and I have both the same status level, so it reasonable to assume that we would get similar compensation if at all. On Monday, he e-mailed me stating that he had gotten 2,500 miles. Ok, I’ll write in for 2,500 miles and here is what I sent into the airline.
I was on a mileage run over the weekend, PHX-NYC-ALB-NYC-PHX, PNR XXXXXX. The problems started with the plane that had been scheduled to fly NYC-ALB it was late arriving in NYC, as part of a cascading series of delays stretching back two days. My connection in ALB was very short, only 25 minutes but it was protected. In NYC I checked the Airline Mobile app and it said the flight departure was delayed to 4:20 still with an on-time arrival. Well the plane arrived in NYC at 4:01, and was eventually delayed to around 5:00pm. However, the departure time wasn’t updated until I was already on the plane going to ALB. The result of the over-optimistic departure time and some sort of baggage issue, was that I missed my connection in ALB and had to overnight there.
In ALB, I was given a room in the Holiday Inn. The only thing missing from that place was the prostitutes. It is not a nice place. Also, no food, no underwear, no deodorant, and no toothpaste for my 12 hour delay. All The Airline had to do to avoid this was post a more realistic departure time. It would have allowed me to go to customer service in NYC, claim trip-in-vain, and get home on-time. But no.
So that letter generated a $250.00 E-Cert, here is the letter that generated 2,500 miles
Message: Flight 5681 was delayed because of “awaiting for aircraft”
resulting me to misconnected in Albany, NY on my flight back to Phoenix,
AZ. I was provided with a hotel voucher, however I have to provide my
own food. Because of this delay and misconnection, I was not able to
report to work, I have to called in for work also. Needless to say, it
was very inconvenience for me, and I lost a day of work with the current
What are my recourses in this incident?
The second letter lacks commentary on the quality of the Holiday Inn and doesn’t mention what the airline could have done to mitigate the consequences of the delay. Also, there is no description of what caused the delay. The airline had much more control over the situation then what the second letter states. The key to getting appropriate compensation in my opinion is to explain where and why the break down happened and what steps the airline could have taken solve the situation before the situation completely collapsed.
So, here are some tips when you want compensation for service break downs.
1) Keep your letter short and to the point.
2) Explain what the airline did and what it could have done.
3) Explain what effect the breakdown had on you, in a way that people can identify with. (I think most people can identify with wanting but not having clean underwear).
4) (Optional) include what you want from the airline. I generally don’t do this because well I am not greedy. But if you do include a compensation request, keep it reasonable.