Rookie Wednesday: How to complain to get what you want with (insert company here)!

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RenesPoints Rookie

Welcome to a weekly feature on the Renés Points blog. Each week this series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this week’s feature.


As I mentioned at the end of December, I have taken up a new sideline with the blog, that of working with a team to help find solutions and help readers with travel related issues. Now I don’t help with all of them, just those I think I can either fix or help a reader to fix on their own.

That last part really is the key as most times “you” i.e. the reader, will have better success than me or some other media presence reaching out to the company. Also, depending on the event, I am likely to agree with the company and not the reader due to what happened. That is not to say I don’t want to help, but there are times when you are asking for something outside the rules. There are times the company will bend the rules, and you just sorta gotta know how to go about asking for this and thus the point of this week’s post.

I jumped in on one with American Airlines. You see, dear Delta flyers, other airlines points expire every oh year to 18 months (in the case of AA) and others 2 years. Unless you have some kind of activity your points go bye bye! Most blog readers know it is a simple thing to keep all these kinds of accounts active by starting at a shopping portal of the airline or so many other ways so that they do not expire (and readers have some great other ideas too). American, even if they expire and you get back to them fast enough, will let you for a fee get them back. Not as good as Delta’s that never expire but still better than nothing depending on how many miles you had.

So back to this AA case. I suggested to the reader that the airline does not care about what you personally have or had going on in your life. I care, but the airlines don’t and a long winded story about why you did not, in 18 months, have time to look at your AA account to keep it from going inactive. I suggested paying the fee and this is a lesson learned. I also suggested reaching out to the AA twitter team (along with a link and directions how to do that) as they tend to be very responsive and maybe you could get what you want, as a one time exception, for free. After all we are asking them to break the rules. Here is what I got back (in part):

“I’ve already asked them nicely, and they said no. [are you] of those people that don’t care?”…. “OK, if you can’t or won’t help that’s fine. You’ll join a long list of people and organizations that wouldn’t help. I’m disappointed but hey that’s life. Again, I don’t know what Twitter is.” – Peter

Sigh. To be fair, Peter did e-mail back and apologize for his rant to me but this really sets the stage for this week’s Rookie post about how to complain, focused for us on Delta Air Lines, but it works with others as well.

Life is hard. We all have issues. Writing a 5 page letter to Delta about why your personal lot in life justifies getting something free will just not work. The poor customer service rep is going to glaze over by paragraph two and get out a canned cut-n-paste response to say sorry for your loss or whatever and then another cut-n-paste about how much Delta values you as a flyer and this kind of feedback will better the airline (yeah right). You will either get nothing or maybe a few Skymiles and that will be that. If you write a second 5 page RANT back about this you will likely get nothing back and the case will be closed! You will not get what you wanted and walk away fuming and upset. That is not what you want or I want!

The first thing, that is really hard to know, is what rules you can get Delta to break for you. Some things are “relatively simple, others are very hard. If you know up front the airline is NOT going to help you, no matter what, then you should adjust your efforts to get what you can. After all, you are just wasting your time if you know the answer is going to be NO before you get started. Also, much of what any company will do for you depends on who you are. Yes, DYKWIA rather than DYKWITIA that is Do You Know Who I Am vs. Do You Know Who I Think I Am! Sorry kids but if you have status with a company they are willing to do more for you than someone who once every few years says hello. Even if you have been a “loyal” customer for 10 or 20 years (again who just says “hi” every few years). Hate to break this to you, but you are not a HVC or high value customer to them. Nothing you say will change those facts!

So can you ever get a FULL REFUND? – Doubtful! How about another FREE TRIP? – You are kidding me right? Then maybe ALL MY POINTS BACK! – Oh boy, really? Let me see how can I explain this is simple terms – NO! Unless it’s something so egregious and shocking to make CNN you are not going to get all your money back or a free trip or all your points back. Beyond that, know you are NOT going to change the way the airlines do business with your hardship case. Sorry, this is the way it is. “You” are just not that important and they just don’t care that much.

However, what you can often get is fees waived or credited back. Maybe a free upgrade or change to your routes or days if mid trip. You may get a “nice” amount of miles or a travel voucher that has value in return for your issue. When it comes to hotels, a free meal or a nice suite upgrade is quite common. Car issues? How about a luxury car compared to the box you paid for for the same price. I hope you see my point, be reasonable and be happy with what you get as the company is trying to make the situation better with what they have to work with from CORP!

So what should a “sample” complaint look like? How much should you include? What should you say? I would use the following outline:

1) Be to the point. If you had health issues, a death in the family or some other event be very short and to the point. The airline really does not care about this as your personal problems are not their problem. Better is just cover the issue that happened if it is something that really is the airlines fault or even if they are only partly at fault. Or, say with weather, maybe it was not really weather but the airline, ah hem, “said” it was weather.

2) Do include flight numbers, your PNR or itinerary number as well as ticket number. Include names of anyone you interacted with.

3) Don’t DEMAND anything. Ask, as a loyal flyer, if it would be possible to get credit back for the event or some other kind of compensation.

That is really all you need; it really can be this simple. Keep in mind you are asking for something they can say NO to and unless you are ready to leave the airline over this event, nothing you really say or do will make any real difference to the airline. It also can help if you can show you have other trips or stays or rentals already booked with them as, yes, you really are a loyal traveler and can move business someplace else.

What if you don’t get enough compensation to make up for whatever event that has befallen you? Is there anything else you can do? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. With Delta, again depending on who you are, you can take it up a notch and reply to the first offer of compensation and respectfully state that perhaps a few more miles or credits would really make this issue AOK in your view and something you can put behind you as a loyal Delta flyer. If they say no a second time you can ask for a supervisor to look at it or take it to @DeltaAsssit to see if they can fix it (or even start with them for that matter).

If you are still stuck with a firm NO or no more at this point my advice is just live with it and move on. If you are a frequent flyer with the airline, in the grand scheme of things one issue does not matter that much. If you are just “mad as all get out and want to send a message to the airline”, then sorry, don’t let the door hit you on the back on your way out! – René

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  1. This post is timely for me.

    Recently my family was returning form a cruise in the Caribbean. My wife and I were going home, and my father-in-law was flying from Miami to Key West – about a 55 minute flight. When we got back to KC we discovered that his flight had taken off on time, flown to Key West and then flown back to Miami. They said they couldn’t land because of clouds. SW and Delta landed fine. They eventually bused my father-in-law to Key West, a very long ride.

    I find it hard to believe they can’t land because of clouds, but I am reluctant to push airlines about safety things. But my father-in-law had to walk the entire length of the terminal with his luggage. What a pain.

    I don’t know if I have any recourse with AA, and tell me if I don’t. I am thinking of asking for a refund of the cost of the flight. Any chance of this?

  2. I applied for an Amex SPG Starwood card off of a link from this site. It was a bonus offer after a 5k 3 month spend. Received the card made the spend on time and never got the bonus miles. Amex and SPG are punting me back and forth for over a year now. Who to complain to ? Nothing is going to happen unless I find the right direction.

  3. @Mike – 1st thanks for the support. Next, as long as it has been 365+ days since you last canceled your SPG card you are good to go. If less that 365 you will not get the bonus points. Next, any fees etc do not count as part of the 5k. Lastly, it takes up to 30 days to get the bonus or after your statement closes. If still no points, start with a secure message while logged in to AMEX. If that does not work, call and ask for a Supervisor. If that does not work, email me and we can go to next level. – Rene

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