Don’t let them ignore your travel complaint. Here’s how.

stop, wait, patience, hands, fingers, waiting, halt, end, finish, done, gesture

It’s complaints season in the travel industry, as Adeodata Czink will tell you.

Her favorite summertime gripe? The tourist who waved a brochure in front of her face, vowing to sue because her expensive hairdo had been ruined. Czink, an etiquette expert and tour guide from Toronto, couldn’t fix the problem.

“We were in Niagara Falls,” she laughs. “I can’t control the mist.”

Czink wasn’t dragged into court. But ridiculous complaints such as the one she heard are as common as summer thunderstorms. I ought to know: I see copious quantities of travel industry complaints through my consumer advocacy website and a companion syndicated column. Believe me when I tell you that now, more than ever, people love to vent.

It’s getting worse, researchers say. “There just seems to be so much more to complain about,” says David Aron, a marketing professor at Dominican University who has studied consumer complaints, grudge-holding and retaliation.

“The media frequently covers negative issues like crowded planes, delays, people getting thrown off planes,” he says. “The tension levels, and levels of dissatisfaction, begin to rise before the experience even begins.”

Rather than adding your voice to the chorus of pointless gripes and loud bellyaching, which is often ignored by thick-skinned travel companies that have developed a form response for everything, why not do something effective this year? To figure out how to do that, you need to review the bad complaints and learn from them. This is going to be fun.

This is no laughing matter, though. If you’re worried about the coming onslaught of negativity, the travel industry should be deathly afraid.

“The effects are undeniable,” says Ben Jost, CEO of TrustYou, which helps hotels analyze and respond to guest feedback. Travel companies that ignore the negative feedback suffer a measurable decline in booking.

At the same time, a lot of the gripes miss the mark — badly. Here are a few phrases that automatically send your email to the recycler:

  • “I demand a free first-class ticket anywhere your airline flies.” I searched my complaint file for this phrase and found thousands of cases that referenced this particular request for a free first-class ticket. It’s such a complaint cliche that I’m convinced customer service agents are trained to ignore it. I have the denial letters as proof.
  • “I’m telling everyone how terrible you are!” Threats to “take my case to Twitter” or “get the media involved” are also so overused that they induce a reflexive eye roll for the average travel industry employee. Part of the problem: It’s often impossible to please these angry customers, short of refunding their entire vacation.
  • “If you don’t do what I want, I’ll sue.” This one’s even worse than taking a gripe to the media. How many travelers actually take a travel company to court? Only a few. Complaints of this nature are not ignored. Instead, they’re forwarded to the legal department — which ignores them.
  • “Don’t you know the customer is always right?” That’s a common sentiment among summer vacationers, who tend to travel infrequently. Their expectations-meter is set somewhere in 1975, when the American travel industry — particularly the airline industry — was a standards-setter in the customer service department. When the service isn’t perfect, they make outrageous demands. Or they complain about waterfalls.

What do you say instead? That’s easy. File your complaint in writing, if possible. Keep it brief, unemotional and polite. Write in complete and grammatically correct sentences. Above all, make sure your expectations are reasonable. No, your tour guide can’t control the mists of Niagara Falls, any more than your airline or hotel can control the weather.

If you ask for the moon, your complaint will just find its way into the bulging digital trash can on a company server. You can do better.

Secrets for a more effective complaint:

  • Cite the rules, chapter and verse. If you have a strong case for compensation or a refund, it’ll be in the contract. For example, airlines have a contract of carriage — the legal agreement between you and the airline — the outline of what they’ll do in case of a delay or a denied boarding situation. Cite the contract if it’s relevant.
  • Lawyer up — without lawyering up. Without threatening to go to court, let the company know that it may be violating the law (if, indeed, it is). For example, your hotel is regulated by state lodging laws, which determine an innkeeper’s liability for your personal property. Gently indicate that you know you have legal rights. That’s often enough to secure a quick resolution.
  • Appeal to a company’s customer service culture. Travel companies frequently promote warranties, customer promises or mission statements that claim to put you first. A quick reference to these documents can be enough to persuade an airline, car rental company, hotel or cruise line to do the right thing.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at,,, and

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

Since its inception over three decades ago, G1G has continued to revolutionize the travel insurance industry by being the only aggregator to operate a customer portal, placing all of the user's primary needs in one place. We have continued to innovate and disrupt the market by reimagining the way travel insurance can be delivered to the end user in ways no competition can. Simply put, no one knows the market as well as its founders and no one else shares G1G values and mission.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

VisitorsCoverage is one of the world’s most trusted providers of travel insurance for millions of global travelers in over 175 countries. Working with top-rated travel insurance partner providers, VisitorsCoverage’s award-winning search, compare and purchase technology simplifies the travel insurance process and finds the best deals for the coverage you need to explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at VisitorsCoverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Send this to a friend