How to Get Fair Compensation from an Airline or Hotel How to Get Fair Compensation from an Airline or Hotel

How to Get Fair Compensation from an Airline or Hotel

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Exploring the beauty of a foreign country, flying to exotic locales in luxury, sampling outlandish foods and opening yourself up to new experiences. At least, that’s what we all hope rewards travel will be. The reality can sometimes fall spectacularly short of our expectations.

If you travel frequently, you're bound to run into situations where the quality of the product, or the service you receive, doesn’t meet your expectations. You pay top dollar (or lots of points) for a flight or hotel room, expecting the product, service, and experience to be of a high standard. But when a company fails to deliver on its promise, what is the most effective way of communicating your complaint, so you receive fair compensation for the inconvenience or missed service?

When travel goes wrong it can be a stressful experience. But asking for the issue to be rectified or for fair compensation shouldn’t be. Follow the tips below and make your flight or stay an enjoyable experience.
When travel goes wrong, it can be a stressful experience. But asking for the issue to be rectified or for fair compensation shouldn’t be.

The Best Way to Have Your Complaint Heard and Addressed by a Hotel or Airline

Before we touch on the specifics of chasing compensation, we just want to nail down one simple but overarching rule that should be in the forefront of your mind when having your complaints addressed.

Be nice.

You will get a better outcome if you are calm, polite, show patience, and treat staff with respect and courtesy. You don’t have to be cheerful or happy, and you can express your displeasure at whatever situation led to your complaints, but if you want the best result and you want staff to support you to a good outcome, manners and patience will get 50% of the job done.

Pinpoint the Issue

The first step is identifying the issue. Record all the details such as the time, location, anyone that was involved, and the precise nature of your complaint. If you’re complaining about a meal or service in a hotel restaurant, take down the name of the staff member involved, your table number, the time and date, and a brief description of events as they occurred. If you turn up to your hotel to find dirty sheets or the hotel has placed you in a smokey hotel room, record the details and take photos on your phone in the case of dirty unprepared rooms. This will help when you try to have the issues addressed.

If the complaint is about the service on a flight, a delay or cancellation, or even a rude gate agent, record the details as soon as the incident happens. It's a lot easier to recall the facts when you've noted down the details and adds credibility to your claim. It also gives the employee dealing with the problem something to copy if the issue cannot be addressed immediately.

Offer a Potential Solution

It’s also important to know how you want the problem rectified before you make your complaint. Focus on a realistic action or compensation from the provider that's in proportion to the issue you’re presenting. Does one cockroach warrant a free room? Probably not. If the hotel has mistakenly placed you in a stinky smoking room, are you within your rights to ask for another room? Absolutely. Add a free drink at the bar while you wait for a room to be prepared? Again, yes. But if you charge in commanding more than the issue warrants, it comes across as entitled and demanding, and destroys any goodwill or motivation the agent dealing with the problem may have towards you.

In the case of delayed or canceled flights in Europe or the US, chances are you'll be entitled to compensation and possibly food, transport, and a hotel. However, if your complaint is about in-flight service, you’ll want to record the flight details, time, names if you have them, and the events that took place so you can present them to the onboard supervisor when your flight reaches its destination. Even something as simple as a broken in-seat entertainment screen. Take a quick video that you can show a supervisor down the track or send via social media or attach to an email with your complaint.

Make Your Complaint Specific and Concise

Make your complaint specific and stick to the topic. If you copped a bad attitude from a reservation agent, don’t complain that you received “bad service from the reservation team.” Call out the specific staff member and what they said, “Janine from reservations was abrasive and complained that I sounded like another rude travel blogger when she thought I was on hold,” — be specific.

It also pays to stick to the point. If you have a whole raft of complaints, don’t let them all go in a single, long-winded breath. Shorten your complaints into bullets and include how you want each particular problem addressed, or provide one solution to all the issues presented.

Don't Immediately Ask for a Supervisor or Manager

Give the person in front of you the opportunity to fix the problem before asking to see a senior staff member. Experienced front desk agents are often empowered with a great deal of authority to rectify situations, without the need for a supervisor or manager getting involved. This can involve moving rooms or upgrades, free food and drink at an onsite restaurant.

By all means, ask to speak to a manager if you don’t think your concerns have been adequately addressed, but often you'll be pleasantly surprised at how a front desk employee can handle your complaints. Remember to document the conversations you have with each employee you talk to so there are no misunderstandings, and you have a clear trail to follow if you need to escalate your complaint. For instance, if you are promised a refund or partial credit, record the name and position of the person who makes the agreement with you alongside the date, time, location, and conversation particulars.

Call in Management or Push the Problem into Public View if Problems Aren’t Addressed

If you don’t feel the issue has been addressed to your satisfaction, you have a couple of options. You can call the General Manager of the hotel or the station manager for an airline, and ask for the solution to be revisited as you don’t feel the outcome was fair. This is where having neat and concise notes detailing the issue, who you’ve spoken to, and any agreements made can come in handy. Not just for you, but also providing the manager with a tidy overview of the issue that they may not receive from hotel or airline staff when multiple people are involved.

You can also air your concerns on the company’s social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook, detailing the specifics of your complaint. From experience, pushing issues out into the public arena can often give the service provider the added motivation to address the problem, particularly when you are specific in your requests and you have your notes to back you up.

You May Also Be Entitled to Additional Compensation from Your Credit Card Provider

It’s worth noting, particularly for airline issues relating to canceled or delayed flights and baggage, that you could already be covered to the tune of thousands of dollars by the travel insurance on your credit card.

For example, cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® feature differing levels of Trip and Baggage Delay Insurance, which allow passengers to claim for expenses when their flights are delayed beyond a certain number of hours, or their bag never shows up at the flight's destination.

As long as you pay for the travel with your card, or pay the taxes and fees if you're using points/miles, you should be covered under the credit card benefits. For more details on these insurances and which cards provide them, check out our post listing the best credit cards for free travel insurance.

Final Thoughts

Having a realistic idea of how negative situations can be rectified, and proactively addressing issues when they arise can have a big impact on your overall travel experience. It's not uncommon for things to go wrong if you spend enough time on the road (or in the air), and learning how to ask for fair compensation is vital for when things don’t go your way.

Be sure to follow up with the company's corporate office and provide feedback on how well or how poorly the hotel or airline staff dealt with the situation, again making use of your notes full of names, dates, and details, allowing you to remember all the details well after the fact.

Have any tips or tricks to getting fair compensation from a hotel or airline? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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  • says:

    To Whom it May Concern:
    I don’t know where else to reach out. Please read about my recent trip to the Sheraton West at Wrigley. Mesa AZ

    My Daughters wedding was in Mesa. I booked a block of rooms at the Sheraton west in Mesa Az.
    Two rooms arrived on Tuesday March 28th. Check in is at three. We were told that rooms were not ready and to check back in gnirty minutes. After being told that they were so busy and it wasn’t their fault, we finally got into our rooms at 6 and 8 PM. Mind you, we had one Pregnant and one disabled. My room did not have air working. After three calls to FD, some finally showed up the next day. awe had to move rooms. We had a ton of things for the wedding and it was quite difficult, but we were happy to have air. We unloaded into our new room and discovered the AC didn’t work in it. So after many calls, we had to move again. We had to miss the wedding events to deal with this! No help no apologies nothing.My daughters wedding week was not off to a great start. Towels were always out!
    Next day, I talked with bar/ restaurant about having 20 people for dinner. I wanted to make sure they could handle it. We were told yes, but in reality there was one person working, who acted as the bartender and server for the whole restaurant. You can only imagine how this went. The server is not to blame. She tried her hardest!!
    Next day, I towels.
    Security was no. Existent and we had some scary things happen.
    One of our guests went up to their room to find a threatening note saying she was next.
    Guests arriving late from Bars, took the stairs to their room. They were greated by an agitated man who we assume was homeless.
    We told FD and nothing was done
    Next day: pool day for the wedding block guests. Man at Bar started making threats to other patrons. The pool bartender asked FD to kick him out, but they said they wouldn’t. Said man, then came into pool and started causing issues with my guests. After being run into, aggressively splashed etc, we very nicely asked him to leave us alone. He got out of the pool making threats and coming at my party. Luckily we had some big guys that directed him out. He made terrostic threats saying he was going to kill rape the girls etc. since the FD did nothing, the bartender called the cops. The swat team came and you can read more on the police reports. My Daughters special week was ruined. The whole party had to give info t the police and obviously pool day was ruined.
    I checked out the next day and had gift certificates for opening Bonvoy credit card. No k e knew how to use them, and I am still trying to get that fixed, but no one returns calls.
    What was supposed to be a great time with our wedding guests turned into a shit show. It wasn’t only that but the staff’s attitude and rudeness just added fuel!!
    I am sad, angry, to say the least. We are from Minnesota and this was a trip that people made to have fun! We feel cheated out of what should have been an awesome week.
    I would appreciate it if you would reach out to me.

  • What do I need to do if daughter and I drank almost entire bucket of ice that had mold all in it at hotel and now we are both very sick? It’s halloween and my daughters favorite holiday will be missed over it.
    I took the ice bucket to front desk and clerk just said sorry.
    We both woke up sick and I’m not sure how to go about this … help?

    • First, I’d recommend documenting everything. The front desk agent might not be able to provide any compensation, so you may need to (politely) ask to speak to a manager. If that doesn’t resolve it and this hotel is part of a chain, reach out to customer service for the chain if they can help.

  • Lacey Lonewolf says:

    What should I get possibly and/or they should give me for, I did not like shower and wanted a bath instead because the motion sensor light kept switching off every 2 min and because of my vertigo I came very close to falling.. I ask front desk manager to switch rooms , 10pm: he wanted for us to be fast in switching rooms so he could clean ours.10:15: moving stuff to other room and notice lock on new room severely broke and still has shower…10:20: call front desk let them know about lock and head back to our original room…10:20 to11:00pm: sat waiting in our room food starting to get cold in freezer bag, said they would call back and Everytime I call they won’t Nswer.. 11:00: head to front desk, daughter call just before I make it there and says manager was just there and told her to leave both keys there and he would be getting us new keys for another room and once again said we would have to be fast cause he needs to clean this one…11:30: call down again to see what’s going on. A bell hop answers and has no idea what’s going on except he might to clean our old room nor does he know where manager is says he will call back..11:55: still nothin call again , a new front desk clerk and let’s me know everyone went home for the night and she the only one there and she had no idea what was going on and no one told her…. 12:15: had to stay in our room no keys that worked for outside door to get in. Food went bad cause I was so exhausted from all this not to mention all the stuff I had to do while there, I forgot to put back in fridge…..bags still packed just waiting for a call back to switch room

    • Lacey – that’s a pretty strange situation. I’m not sure what hotel brand it was, but for me personally I would expect to not pay for that night of my stay. The hotel staff ruined that particular day, so I wouldn’t want to pay for it. Others may feel differently.

  • Social media can be very vocal in escalating your issue and also I believe you should have mentioned EU compensation regulations that in my view should become a template for other countries to implement.

  • If you have a legitimate issue, you should bring it up. Don’t complain just to get a few freebies. Usually, the hotel manager can help, but sometimes you get nowhere. Don’t sweat the small things!!

  • Bertrand Say says:

    What kind of a compensation can you get for a non smoking room that smells of cigarettes? The only thing they did when we complained was to open the windows to air out the room. There was still a smell to the room.

  • I am always on top of reporting bad service and usually do get made whole for bad service. Most recent issue, a charge dropping off a rental car not gven to me in my reservation confirmation. I was told it was a charge for declining a charge. (Really, with a straight face.) They said if you decline to be charged for insurance because your credit card already provides it, you are charged! I’m awaiting the reply now and expect they will make it right. If not, I have the address to every consumer agency in the country. 🙂

  • Good article, hits many important points when seeking compensation for incidents happened during travel.

  • These suggestions are especially valid if the other part is honest and wish to solve a problem.
    Sometimes, the counterpart simply refuse to give compensation and the only solution is to go to court.
    I think a good solution is to oblige the companies which act in bad faith to indemnify the double or more, otherwise it is cheaper to refuse the reimbursement, not everyone has the knowledge and the time to go to justice.

  • Great article. Useful information. Delayed flights in Europe can get good compensation. youAlways try to keep the level head even when displeased with service. Save the freak out for when it is really warranted.

  • Certain companies are much easier to deal with than others. For some companies Twitter is the best way to get through to someone.

  • jason picker says:

    This is true in all areas of life. When you are nice, people respond in kind, when you come out “guns blazing”, people also respond in kind.
    This isn’t to say that one should never use a “guns blazing” approach, but when trying to get compensation from a company, always try a kind approach 1st.

  • So many people complain today and are rude. I completely understand for legit reasons but I find that Americans do complain a lot. Have you seen posts on social media about road rage,calling 911 because a burger isn’t made fast enough?! That all makes me really think about what I complain about anything and how I treat people.

    I find that most people do not know how to complain properly or when, so this is awesome to kind of give a guidance on that! Thank you!

  • Try getting compensation from AA and United

  • SkinnyElvis says:

    If it is a problem with an airline, making a complaint to the dept of transportation can get a change in response in my experience.

  • It’s easier if it’s an American based company. I’ve had little luck with foreign companies. They seem to think Americans complain just to complain.

  • Sometimes phone calls work too (although they take longer and don’t provide the satisfaction of publicly shaming companies). Airports in particular have some miserable employees lately, but there are also some great ones who really try hard to accommodate passengers.

  • Good article… I can never get fair compensation this should help

  • I’ve found usually Twitter gets an extremely fast response time from larger companies if staff members aren’t cooperating

  • Very good advice, especially about patience and being polite. I have seen too many people who thought they were overly entitled treating employees as if they were slaves. Things happen and are usually resolved with a bit of patience.

  • I tried Twitter it worked for me.