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Airline Complaint Letter (Free Sample Included)

Camila Lopez - Airlines - June 6, 2024

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    We have all been there. You meticulously plan an exciting far-off vacation only to have it soured by a bad flight experience. As unfortunate as this may be, all hope is not lost. By sending an airline complaint letter, you may be able to recover compensation for expenses incurred due to delayed flights, canceled flights, lost luggage, etc. 

    In the article below, we cover what to include in your complaint letter, provide an airline complaint letter example, and discuss other ways you can resolve disputes against airlines. 

    Did you know we have a free tool powered by AI that helps you create a complaint letter? Check out our complaint letter tool.

    Reasons to Write a Complaint Letter to an Airline 

    There are many reasons you may need to send a complaint letter to an airline. Below we have listed some of the most common reasons: 

    Why Sending a Complaint Letter to an Airline is Important 

    Sending a complaint letter to an airline is an important way to voice your concerns, and help improve the travel experience for everyone.

    Here are at least four other reasons to send a complaint to an airline: 

    1. You aren’t able to file a complaint or resolve a complaint directly with the airline. Most airlines do have clear procedures in place to handle passenger complaints. However, it may be the case that the airline you flew with does not. Or even if the procedure is clear, you are having a hard time resolving the complaint through those procedures. You may be able to resolve your complaint more easily by sending a formal complaint letter directly to the airline. 

    2. You are taken more seriously by the airline if you send a formal complaint letter. 

    3. Sending a complaint letter provides a record of your complaint. This can be helpful if you need to pursue legal action in the future or if you want to file a complaint with a regulatory agency like the Department of Transportation (“DOT”)

    4. The most important reason to send a complaint letter is that it may lead to a resolution of your complaint. 

    What To Do Before Sending a Complaint Letter 

    Before sending a complaint letter to an airline, consider the following steps:

    1. Review your airline’s contract of carriage. 

    2. Compile your flight information and other relevant documents. 

    3. Locate the contact information for the airline. 

    Below we break down these steps further.  

    Review the Airline’s Contract of Carriage

    Before sending a complaint letter, you may want to review an airline’s contract of carriage (sometimes referred to as the airline’s conditions of carriage). This contract normally includes information on an airline’s refund policy, canceled or delayed flights, or policies relating to your luggage. We recommend you review this contract before sending a complaint letter, so you know an airline’s legal obligations before asking for a specific resolution to your complaint. 

    Compile Your Flight Information 

    In your complaint letter, you may need to give details about your flight itinerary, flight number, expenses, departure date, arrival date, etc. The more information you include, the easier it will be for the airline to understand and investigate your complaint efficiently, which in turn means your complaint will be resolved faster!

    Locate the Airline’s Contact Information

    You will need to know where and to who you should send your complaint letter before writing the actual letter. For example, most airlines review complaint letters sent to their Customer Service Department

    • Visit the airline’s website to find their “Contact Us” information. There the airline should have the name of the department that handles consumer complaints, the department’s address, etc.   

    • You may also want to call the airline’s customer service department and ask to speak to someone. They may be better equipped to answer other questions by phone, like if you can send your complaint by email. 

    What to Include in Your Complaint Letter 

    Here are some suggestions to consider including in your complaint letter: 

    • The facts surrounding your complaint. For example, if your complaint is about a delayed flight, include the specifics about your flight, the delay, your expenses due to the delays, etc. 

    • Ask for compensation or make a demand using clear, concise, and professional language. Remember you are sending this letter in the hopes that the airline will take action to resolve your complaint. Refrain from using antagonistic language in your complaint letter. State what happened with your flight and what you would like the airline to do to remedy the issues you experienced. 

    • Include any law or act you are relying on. If applicable, you should clearly state which source of law (for example, a DOT rule) or airline policy you are basing your request on. 

    • Include your contact information. Consider providing your email or phone number, so the airline knows how to contact you in case they accept the remedies you ask for in your complaint letter. 

    • Attach travel documents. Include documents you know will be important for the airline to see. This should include receipts for expenses you are requesting compensation for, your flight information, pictures (for example, of damaged luggage), etc. 

    • Include a deadline. You may want to consider giving the airline 14 days to respond to you and state that if they do not respond within that time, you will take further action. Confirm if the airline has more time to handle complaints by reviewing their contract of carriage or finding their complaint procedures online. 

    Once you have sent your complaint letter, keep it in your records. In the event you do end up filing a small claims lawsuit, you can bring it to the hearing and show it to the judge. This is especially handy if the airline claims they didn’t receive the complaint letter or if the judge asks questions about the complaint letter at the hearing. 

    Sample Complaint Letter to an Airline 

    Here is a video on how our free demand letter tool works:

    Below is a sample complaint letter to an airline for a refund. When using this sample, replace those facts with facts from your situation and insert the relevant information of your dispute in:

    [Your Name]

    [Your Address]


    [Airline’s Name]

    [Airline’s Address]

    RE: [Subject of your complaint] 

    To whom it may concern: 

    My name is [your name], and I am a frequent passenger on [name of airline]. I purchased a ticket from [name of airline] for a flight departing from [location of departure] and arriving at [location of arrival] on [date of departure]. However, on [date of departure], my flight was canceled. I was flying out for [reason for flight], and because of the cancellation, I missed the event. I have attached a copy of [state any copy of documents you attached to the letter] to this letter. 

    I am now asking that [name of airline] provide a refund of my flight for [total refund requested] as per [name of airline]’s refund policy. Please refund this balance to [state where you want the refund sent to]

    I look forward to resolving this matter amicably, you may contact me at [your email] if you would like to discuss this matter further. If I do not hear from you by [14 days from now], I will take further action.



    [Your signature]

    Did you know we have a free tool powered by AI that helps you create a complaint letter? Check out our complaint letter tool.

    How to Send a Complaint Letter to an Airline 

    In general, you may send your complaint letter by mail. However, you may also be able to email your letter, depending on the airline’s policies. For letters that you mail, consider sending your letter with tracking information so that you know when it has been delivered. 

    Next Steps After Sending a Complaint Letter 

    Besides sending a formal complaint letter to the airline, consider taking the following steps to resolve your complaint: 

    1. File a complaint with a government or nonprofit organization. 

    2. Sue the airline in small claims court. 

    Filing a Complaint Against an Airline 

    There are some government and nongovernment organizations that allow you to file a complaint against an airline. The two main agencies are the Department of Transportation (“DOT”) and the Better Business Bureau (“BBB”)

    File a complaint with the Department of Transportation:  

    • The DOT is a federal agency that regulates airlines operating in the U.S. They also handle complaints against airlines from consumers for issues relating to luggage, canceled flights, flight delays, etc. 

    • The DOT allows consumers to file a complaint against an airline on their website under the Office of Aviation Consumer Protection

    • Be aware, the DOT cannot force an airline to resolve your complaint. They only require the airline to respond to your complaint. 

    File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau

    • The BBB is a nonprofit organization that serves as an intermediary between consumers and airlines. They are not a government agency and do not have any regulatory authority over airlines. 

    • The BBB allows consumers to file complaints against airlines for a variety of reasons ranging from damaged luggage to airlines overselling their scheduled flights

    • The BBB will review consumer complaints, and forward these complaints to the airline. However, the BBB cannot force an airline to resolve your complaint or respond to your complaint.

    Sue an Airline in Small Claims Court 

    If you aren’t able to resolve your complaint against an airline with the following agencies or the airline didn’t respond to your complaint letter, consider suing the airline in small claims court. Small claims courts are more affordable, quicker, and more efficient than other types of courts. These types of courts were also designed for everyday people to resolve their disputes without the need for an attorney. 

    Further, Small claims courts have the authority to force an airline to properly address your complaint. For example, if an airline mishandled your luggage, canceled a flight, or significantly delayed a flight, you may be able to sue the airline in small claims court for compensation. 

    Before you decide to file a lawsuit, make sure the amount you intend to sue the airline for is within the small claims limit.


    Camila Lopez

    Legal Educator @ People Clerk. Camila holds a law degree and is a certified mediator. Her passion is breaking down complicated legal processes so that people without an attorney can get justice.

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