AA Legal Documents
Law guide

Making a complaint


Air travel has increased over the last decade, and with higher volumes of passengers, complaints are inevitable. If you have a grievance with an airline, airport or travel agent, there are ways you can complain.

Complaining about airlines or airports

If you have a complaint, it is best to resolve it using the two-stage process below.

Speak to airport/airline staff

Try to speak to someone at the airport or airline immediately. They might be able to sort out your problem straight away. If they are unable to help you or you are still not happy, try to find out who is responsible for what went wrong. (It may not be the airline at fault.)

Make a note of the names of people you speak to, dates, times and any other relevant information.

Put your complaint in writing

If talking to staff doesn't resolve your issue, the next step is to put your complaint in a letter to the customer relations department of the airline, the tour organiser or operator of your package holiday or the airport (depending on whose services you are complaining about). You should also check the airline's website to find out the best way of complaining; some airlines prefer you to write, some to email and others for you to fill out an online form.

Briefly explain what went wrong, and say what you expect to be done about your complaint. If you want compensation, say so, and say how much you expect. Whatever you write, be reasonable and stick to the facts.

Send copies of tickets or receipts with your first letter of complaint and keep the originals. If you are claiming a refund, the airline or travel agent will need the original tickets eventually. But hang on to them until you have a promise of a refund in writing (unless you can go to the travel agent or airline office yourself and get the refund there and then).

Remember to keep copies of all correspondence.

Escalating your complaint

If you have already made a written complaint to an airline or airport, and you are not satisfied with the outcome, it's possible that the Civil Aviation Authority can help. You must be aware that they have no powers to compel service providers to accept their views.

If you write to the AUC, make sure you include copies of all correspondence you have exchanged with the airline or airport.

Complaints about tour operators or travel agents

If you have complained to the agent or operator in question, but you are still not satisfied with the response, find out if the company is a member of a trade association, as these have arbitration procedures for customer complaints. The two main trade associations are the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) and the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA).

The Air Transport Users Council cannot help with a complaint against a tour operator or travel agent.

Unresolved complaints

Both the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) and the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) can offer an independent dispute settlement service in which a third party attempts to mediate quickly in difficult disputes.

For more information on consumer and trade organisations, see our 'Consumer bodies for holiday complaints' section.