Wronged by an airline? Here’s how to file a complaint

Last reviewed: June 2011

As the results of our survey on airline travel make clear, airline passengers are increasingly unhappy with the service they're getting. If you feel you've been mistreated by an air carrier, here's what to do.

File a complaint with an airline

The U.S. Department of Transportation provides detailed contact information for the largest domestic carriers.

If you file a complaint, be sure to include dates, times, airports, flight numbers, employee names, etc., and your contact information. Stick to the facts and try to keep it as brief as possible.

Suggest what you think would be fair compensation, bearing in mind that airlines are less likely to offer cash and much more likely to offer compensation toward a future flight.

File a complaint with the government

If the airline is unresponsive to your complaint, your next step is to contact the relevant federal agency.

Airline-service issues (other than safety or security)

These are handled by the DOT's Aviation Consumer Protection Division. You can call (202-366-2220, line is open 24 hours a day) or write (Aviation Consumer Protection Division, C-75, U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. 20590), or file electronically.

Safety issues

To file a complaint or express a concern about suspected safety issues or possible violations of federal regulations, call the Federal Aviation Administration (866-835-5322) or write (Federal Aviation Administration, Consumer Hotline, AOA-20, 800 Independence Ave. S.W., Washington, D.C. 20591).

Security issues

To report concerns about aviation security, contact the Transportation Security Administration by phone (866-289-9673) or by e-mail at TSA-ContactCenter@dhs.gov.

Disability-related issues

Discrimination by U.S. or foreign airlines on the basis of physical or mental disability is prohibited under the Air Carrier Access Act. To report a problem, call the DOT (800-778-4838) or write (Aviation Consumer Protection Division, Attn: C-75-D, U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. 20590).

Discrimination issues

If you believe you've been discriminated against by airline or airport personnel or government employees on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, or ancestry, the DOT website provides this information sheet on how to file a complaint.