British couple awarded over $35,000 for “loss of enjoyment” on cruise

When Terence and Cynthia Milner booked a 15-week, $100,000 round-the-world cruise on Cunard’s Queen Victoria, they were expecting the trip of a lifetime. Instead, they claim the experience was so horrible that they had to get off the ship early in Hawaii, at which point they were “in a terrible state.”

The problem: apparently the first night they heard unbearable noise in their cabin. They were moved, and moved again and again but continued to find each successive cabin equally unsatisfactory until they could take it no more. Cunard refunded the couple nearly $80,000 for the portion of the cruise they missed, but the Milners wanted more. The took Cunard to court, and were awarded an additional 22,000 pounds (about $36,600) with the majority of the money awarded for “distress and disappointment.” Another portion of the settlement was awarded to cover the £4,300 worth of formal dresses Mrs. Milner bought, which she is now unable to wear because they are an “unwelcome reminder of the cruise.”

According to the BBC, the Milners claim they were first moved to a cabin fitted for the disabled, which was located near the engine and was very noisy. They were then moved to another cabin, but were concerned that they wouldn’t have it the whole time because it was booked by another couple joining the cruise later. By this time, Milners were terribly afflicted with mouth ulcers and breathing difficulties, so they jumped ship in Hawaii, where they vacationed for six weeks, all the while “exhausted and inconsolable.”

Exhausted and inconsolable in Hawaii? I suppose that could be true….if they Milners couldn’t find contentment on a $100,000 round-the-world luxury cruise, I doubt they could find it anywhere.


Top 20 list of most bizarre holiday grievances – Number 1? An aroused elephant


You know, when I travel, there are certain things that can get me down: long, unexplained delays at the airport. Trying to check in at a hotel, and the room isn’t ready. And once checked in, a room that is dirty, or not what it was advertised to be. But in general, these are minor annoyances, and I know this. I get over it.

But apparently, there are travelers who truly need to consider switching to decaf: the Telegraph is reporting the top twenty most ridiculous holiday grievances by British vacationers, according to a poll taken by The Association for British Travel Agents (ABTA) and Thomas Cook. At the top of the list? One man on his honeymoon, who said he experienced “feelings of inadequacy after seeing an aroused elephant.”

Dude. It’s an elephant. I’m sure you’re more than adequate.


You can read all of the complaints here
. And then think smugly to yourself that you must be one of the most easygoing travelers alive.

How to complain about your airline or hotel service – and get results

Lets face it – poor service has become a fact of life. It doesn’t matter whether you are at the airport, in the air, or at your hotel. Sooner or later you are going to run into something that is handled poorly, and you’ll end up suffering.

In my years of traveling I’ve ran into all kinds of horrible service – from 2 off-duty pilots fighting in the first class cabin, to a hotel room with water dripping down from the ceiling onto the bed.

Some complaints are minor, some are major, and some are just not warranted, but no matter how serious your complaint is, there are 2 ways to deal with the issue – the right way, and the wrong way.

In this article, I’m going to gather some of the best tips on how to get results when you complain, and what to do when you don’t get the results you desire.
Know when to complain (and when not)

Some complaints are best kept till you get home, others are best dealt with immediately. If you are in your hotel room, and something is wrong, don’t wait to complain. Call the front desk right away, and make sure someone with hotel management knows about the problem. If your coffee maker does not work, and you send a letter 2 weeks later, there is little the hotel can do about the problem, and they’ll let you know that they would have been perfectly willing to help you out when you actually wanted that cup of coffee.

Another situation when you need to immediately escalate things, is when you are not getting what you paid for at the airport. If you reserve a first class ticket, but you end up in coach due to overbooking, make sure someone is made aware of the situation, and demand that your record locator is updated with the downgrade. Knowing your rights at the airport is the best way to prevent the airline screwing with you, and unfortunately they will if they get the chance.

If your complaint involves something during a flight, quietly ask a flight attendant for their help – many problems can be resolved with some help from them, and if the issue can’t be resolved, they’ll usually be able to provide a way of reporting the incident to the airline. Don’t just ignore the problem and complain about it weeks later – the airline usually prefers to have a written report from their own staff.

The “when not to complain” part refers to the fine line that exists between sending in a complaint, and becoming a chronic whiner. Remember, you would not be the first person told to never come back when you complain too often!

The complaint letter

One does not have to be an Oxford Scholar to produce an effective complaint letter, all it takes is adhering to some simple steps. First of all; never ever write your complaint letter when you are still fuming mad. Trust me, the best complaint letters are produced when you have calmed down and can think clearly.

When you start writing your letter, imagine you are the recipient. Would you really want to read 100 letters a day with people describing how long they have been flying your airline, and any number of other personal details?

Leave the personal details out of the letter, the airline does not care how loyal you have been to them in recent years.

An effective complaint letter is all about the details – the quicker the recipient understands the issue and what resolution you are expecting, the better.

Include only the details required for things actually related to the complaint. Details like payment method, dates, people you dealt with and room or flight numbers are important. The color of the bus that drove you to the hotel is not relevant, so leave that out.

Put yourself back in the shoes of the recipient – don’t take a rude tone, don’t call them names, don’t call their airline or hotel “useless” and don’t make nasty comments about their colleagues. In fact, in every complaint letter, it’s nice to point out one or two things or people that exceeded your expectations. The most effective complaint letters get straight to the point, stay calm and polite, and make the reader understand your issues.

Your demands

When you send a complaint letter, you are not writing it just to vent, you are letting the company know that they messed up, and that you’d like them to make it right.

Do not be scared to make a demand, but keep it fair. If you spent $100 on a hotel room, and the maid woke you at 5am, don’t ask for $200. Airlines and hotels always prefer to compensate you with miles or discount coupons, simply because those have the least value to them, and they’ll ensure you come back.

I’ve learned that asking an airline for 25,000 miles for a spoiled flight is often quite acceptable, and on international flights I’ve regularly asked for 50,000 miles for things like an inoperable entertainment system or if the airline runs out of food. The worst that can happen is that the airline says no.

Remember, miles = free trips. If the airline compensates you with 25,000, you’ve got yourself a free round trip ticket within the US, which is often worth about $400.

One big “do not do” when it comes to demands, is threatening legal action – if the customer support agent reads a letter that contains legal threats, they’ll usually pass it on to the legal department of the airline. Those people don’t determine whether or not to help you based on customer service, they base it upon the law. If they are in the clear, they’ll tell you to get lost.

If your complaint yields an offer from the airline, don’t be scared to decline it – a $50 coupon for a 3 day delay is not reasonable. Make sure your reply thanks them for the time they took to reply to you, but ensure they understand that you expect a reasonable compensation, not a token gift to make you go away.

They ignored me – what now?

If you have a legitimate complaint, and you find yourself unable to find anyone that cares, then it’s time to take it to the next level. At this point you have several options, which all depend on the severity of how poorly your were treated and what steps you already took.

At the hotel

If the front desk is unwilling to help, ask for someone in management. If your issue is serious enough, do not accept excuses. Of course, it is quite possible that a manager is not immediately available, in that case provide your personal details, and request that you be contacted within a reasonable time frame. Always make notes of who you are talking to, and what promises are made.

If the hotel manager is unwilling to help, make sure you keep your notes, and contact someone with the hotel chain itself. This could be a district manager, or even someone in upper management.

At the airport

If your issue is at the airport, your best bet is to stay calm and ask to speak to a station manager. Given the size of the airport, it is perfectly possible that they won’t be anywhere near you, so ask to talk to them on the phone. One important tip at the airport is to always stay calm. Never yell, never make threats and never ever lose your temper with a gate or ticketing agent. If the issue can’t be resolved at the airport, leave it until you get home and contact the airline directly but make it clear that you did everything you could to resolve it at the air

At the security checkpoint

If your airport problem involves the TSA, then things get a little more complicated – each TSA checkpoint will have TSO’s (transportation security officers), Master TSO’s and a transportation security manager. If something went wrong, step aside, and politely request to speak to the manager. Remember, most TSA agents are there to help you, but if you become rude and obnoxious, you probably won’t make your flight.

If the TSA manager is unable or unwilling to resolve your problem, ask for a complaint form, and have him write down his name. Also make sure you write down the exact time and date of the incident, in the event someone needs to pull some video material.

When all else fails…

When all else fails with airline related complaints, you have either run into incompetence, or your problem is simply not deemed important enough. Either way, if you feel you are not receiving the attention you deserve, then it may be time to contact the Department of Transportation Aviation Consumer Protection Division. The ACPD can be contacted by mail, or through an online complaint form. Airlines dislike these complaints, because each complaint shows up in the yearly statistics of the DOT.

Serious hotel problems are not protected by the Department of Transportation, so the best bet for getting results here will require some real creativity. The created the term “Executive Email Carpet Bomb” or “EECB”. This involves digging up as many corporate contacts you can, and emailing every single one of them.

With a little help from Google, and some elbow grease, you’ll eventually you’ll run into someone who wants your problem to go away. Of course, the whole thing is rather time consuming, but the results are often worth it.

Don’t forget to harness the power of the Internet – some of the best complaint resolutions have come after someone sent their complaint to a consumer site. One of the most famous Internet complaints is from 2001 and is called “You have a very bad hotel“, millions of people read that presentation and it caused some major changes within the hotel that mistreated them.

If all else fails, and your other attempts fail too, then your only option is to share your experiences with the world. Post your problems with the property or airline on one of the many review sites, and warn others of what happened to you.

Just remember, sometimes all the effort just isn’t worth it, and the best complaint is the one you make with your wallet.

10 tips for smarter flying

5 steps to smarter packing

An open letter to US Airways

I just got back from spending a week visiting a friend in Puerto Rico. Considering I am tan, well-rested and had perfect weather, I guess it was a successful trip. But it was almost derailed from the very beginning when US Airways lost my luggage.

You see, I was forced to check my luggage because the overhead compartments were full. When I asked the US Airways representative why people in our seating “zone” had to check our bags and not others who boarded first, he simply said, “next time book a seat in the back of the plane.” Now seems to be the right time to point out that I was seated in row 22 of a 30 row plan yet was in Zone 6 out of 7. Logic, thy name is not US Airways.

Well, the attendant quickly scribbled my flight info on the luggage ticket. And by quickly I mean sloppily. How sloppy? His SJU (San Juan, Puerto Rico) ended up looking like SJO (Juan Santamaría International, Costa Rica). Woops! Of course, no one knew where my bag was for days. Which meant that I spent New Year’s Eve in clothes purchased in San Juan and several days in a pretty ornery mood. Ultimately, my bag was found and returned and I am happy to report that I encountered several wonderfully helpful US Airways staff members along the way.

What follows is an open letter to US Airways (rest assured it has also been emailed, faxed and mailed to their Customer Relations department). I made sure to praise those who helped me. It’s only fair.

US Airways Customer Relations,

I am writing to express my great frustration and disappointment. On December 30, 2008, I departed LaGuardia airport en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico with a stop in Charlotte, NC (Flight 899 with a transfer to Flight 1568).

I attempted to board the plane at LaGuardia when my zone was called (Zone 6). At this time, I was told that the overhead compartments were full and that I would need to check my carry-on bag. When I asked the US Airways representative why people in our zone were essentially being penalized, he simply told me, “next time book a seat in the back of the plane.” However, I was in row 22 of a 30 row plane. Yet, I was in Zone 6 out of 7. Why was a seat in the last third of the plane included in Zone 6? And such a dismissive and smug response from a member of your staff is disrespectful.

I reluctantly gave up my carry-on bag to the attendant. However, because of his sloppy handwriting, my bag was sent to Costa Rica (SJO) instead of San Juan (SJU). I did not learn this for several days. In that time, I was in Puerto Rico for New Year’s with absolutely no clothing and no idea where my luggage was and if it would ever be recovered.

I made several calls to your toll-free number and found your customer service representatives to be uninformed and dismissive. My bag could not be tracked or accounted for.

Thankfully, I can say that your on-site luggage services staff in Charlotte and San Juan are professional, courteous and honest. David in Charlotte searched diligently for my bag and had the idea to check Costa Rica. He went so far as to call me back twice to assure me that he was still working on my case. Sheila in San Juan was fantastic. She called me repeatedly and even had the delivery service bring my bag to me before their scheduled deliveries. She later called me again to confirm that I had received the bag. I wish that your corporate office staff were as friendly and helpful as your airport staff.

It is absolutely unacceptable that A) my seat was in Zone 6 for boarding since it was in the back third of the plane, B) a member of your staff would give me such a dismissive explanation as to why I had to check my luggage, C) the haste and sloppiness of one of your employees would result in my luggage going to an entirely different country for several days, and D) your corporate staff is as ineffective as they are.

You should be ashamed of a situation like this. I certainly have no intention of utilizing your airline in the future. My disappointment is tempered only by the kindness of your airport staff, who showed that a little patience and humanity can go a long way.

Overall, however, your airline’s service was an embarrassment.

Michael Barish

Spirit Airlines CEO: “Let him tell the world how bad we are.”

Remember our post a few weeks back in which Alex Rudloff (one of the brains behind our blogging platform) detailed his terrible experience with Spirit Airlines? When Alex wrote the post, comments immediately started to flood in. One of those commenters was a woman named Christy who — along with her husband — had a similar bad experience, and emailed Spirit Airlines’ customer service department looking for answers. The email was eventually escalated to Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza.

It seems that having a basic understanding of email isn’t required to obtain such the CEO position, because Mr. Baldanza made the mistake of hitting “reply to all” (which included Christy) in his snarky response to her quest for answers. Here it is:

“Please respond, [Customer Service Representative], but we owe him nothing as far as I’m concerned. Let him tell the world how bad we are. He’s never flown us before anyway and will be back when we save him a penny.”

Well isn’t that just lovely?

Head over to Alex’s blog to see the email in its entirety.