Whether you are heading out for a Caribbean vacation or going home for a funeral, a canceled flight is a frustration way too many of us have experienced. Some things are out of an airlines control, such as weather. However, sometimes they (for reasons unbeknownst to us) simple change their flight schedules AFTER you have purchased a ticket. If you are lucky, they might let you know of such a change far enough in advance that you can alter your itinerary. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
I’d love to boycott the air industry until they start putting an emphasis on customer service. I’d love to recommend that you do the same…. But let’s be realistic. We need them and they know it. This has resulted in very little incentive to care about customer service.
The Good News
There is actually a couple of pieces of good news, however. First of all, there are a lot of airlines out there, which gives you options. Personally, I’ll pay more money to fly with one that hasn’t screwed me over previously. Is a bargain-priced flight REALLY a bargain if you end up with a canceled flight and have to pay for a hotel for the night or if you miss your grandfather’s funeral? While I am ALL for a good deal and budget travel, there are some areas in life where you should not always go with the lowest bidder.
Secondly, passengers DO have rights. Legal rights.
Passenger Rights You Might Not Know You Have
- An airline is required to honestly post airfares which clearly state what is included and a breakdown in the charges, even if using a third-party site to advertise their fares.
- If you find a better price on a flight within 24 hours of your purchase, they are required to allow you to cancel and receive a full refund (even if the ticket you purchased was non-refundable). This only applies to flights booked more than a week in advance.
- An airline is not allowed to just leave you sitting in the plane on the tarmac for more than three hours. Furthermore, you have the right to water and a working toilet if you are delayed on the ground for a long period of time.
- If your checked luggage is lost for more than thirty days, the airline owes you up to $3500 for a domestic flight or $1675 for an international flight.
- When an airline cancels a flight, they must offer you a comparable flight or refund your money.
What Can You Do?
You have several options in filing your grievance with an airline. You may have to turn to more than one resource to get a response from the airline.
Talk to a Customer Service Agent. Remembering that is not the agent’s fault this has happened, you can ask to speak to a customer service agent, whether in person at the airport or over the phone. Give them the opportunity to correct the situation for you. Have all of your documentation ready, such as flight confirmation and payment information.
File Complaint with Corporate Headquarters. Each airline is required to let you know where and how to file a grievance with them. Many have a complaint form on their website. Send an email or fill out the form and let them know what occurred and the consequences of their airline’s actions. Also, be sure to let them know of anyone else in the organization that you have spoken to and the results of the communication. Again, be sure to reference your confirmation number and flight information and provide the airline with a good way to reach you for follow up.
Social Media. Do NOT underestimate the power of social media. These airlines have someone monitoring each time they are mentioned, especially poorly. It does not take long for a video of a passenger being mistreated to go viral. It takes forever to get the public to forget the incident and stop hating the airline.
Recently, we had a slew of guests who were notified last minute of their canceled flights for their vacations to Urraca Private Island Resort. Copa Airlines was uncooperative and unapologetic. Not only could they not get some of the guests on other flights which would work within the rest of their travel plans, but they told them it could take two months to receive their refunds. I mentioned it on my social media page and on their airline’s page. I used cutesy hashtags like #can’tcopaanymore or #copacancels or #nomorecopa.
The issue went on for about three weeks, with very little response from the airline. So, once or twice a week, we would post an update and use the hashtags. A representative would FINALLY magically respond to our communications almost immediately. That clearly illustrates they care more about protecting their image than doing right by their passengers. Sharing on social media still prompted their response. They eventually offered a small amount of compensation to my guests.
File a Grievance with the Department of Transportation. This arm of the government regulates airlines’ behavior. You can file a complaint online at:
Or call them at 202-366-2220.
According to the Department of Transportation,” airlines are required to acknowledge consumer complaints within 30 days of receiving them and to send consumers written responses addressing these complaints within 60 days of receiving them.”
Report them to the Better Business Bureau. The BBB tracks all complaints made against a business and allows the airline to respond to the complaint. Some businesses don’t care about their BBB rating. This can still be another way you can let other potential future customers know what kind of service to expect, especially if it is an airline with a reputation for canceled flights.
You can file your complaint with the BBB at www.bbb.org
I love to travel too much to give up on the industry altogether. However, I do wish we could get back to the days when airlines cared about their passengers and providing them with a good travel experience. In the meantime, it does help to know your rights and your recourse when the airline violates those rights.
If you have any travel nightmare stories I’d love to hear about them and how the airline resolved (or failed to resolve) them. Drop me a comment below!