A Quick Reminder to Write a (Nice) Note If Your Flight Has (Legitimate) Problems

A friend recently flew British Airways with her family (including 2 kids under the age of 10) and discovered that the in-flight entertainment on her plane was not working. She sent an email to British Airways and in return they sent her and her husband 10,000 miles each as compensation.

I bring this up for two reasons. First, you should always write a letter to an airline if your flight has service issues. However, this does not mean you should complain incessantly about everything (like this guy whose Mileage Plus account was frozen after too many complaints). There is no point in writing about weather delays. Or flight delays in general. Or mechanical issues that delay the flight. Let it be. But broken business class seats, non-functioning in-flight entertainment, and non-delivered special means are all fair game for complaints.

Second, I see horribly, horribly written complaint letters all the time at my job. The primary problem is the litany of complaints spewed forth in a rambling missive. The two keys to a well-written complaint letter are courtesy and brevity. Do not be rude, and limit your discussion to the one (or, God forbid, 2) issue(s) that are causing you to write the letter. Any sort of “do you know who I am” will backfire. I’m also not a fan of “I’ve been flying Continental Airlines for 25 years and I’ve never seen blah blah blah.” Whether it’s your first or 700th trip, poor service is unacceptable.

With that in mind, here’s a sample of the letter I would write in the case above:

Dear British Airways,

My husband and two young chlidren flew home to New York from London on BA on XXX Flight on XXX Date in World Traveller Plus. We were very happy with the extra space provided in that cabin – that’s why we spent a bit extra to fly in WT Plus. Unfortunately, we discovered that our personal entertainment systems were non-functional for the duration of the flight throughout WT Plus. It’s not as if this ruined our trip, obviously, but we were really hoping we could use the IFE to keep our young kids entertained during the 8-hour journey. It’s a shame we were unable to experience the full quality of WT Plus with these systems not working.

We just wanted to let you know about our disappointment.

Thank you,
BA Executive Club #XXXXX

I don’t recommend demanding compensation. They will compensate you. Adding your frequent flyer number will give them the hint. I always cringe when I people say that their vacation was ruined because of some service slight – your 8 days in Paris were not ruined because the TV didn’t work on the plane. Overselling your discomfort doesn’t help. Kindness and conciseness will get you exactly what you’re looking for.


  1. i recently had the same problem on a trans-atlantic delta flight. i told the flight attendant and he insisted on giving me a $100 voucher. i told him it wasn’t a problem at all i just wanted to let him know and he said he HAD to give it to me. just proof of what you’re saying: (1) you don’t have to be angry (2) you don’t have to ask for anything.