5 Ways to Get Good Customer Service From an Airline


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Delta called Ann Coulter’s actions on social media “unacceptable.”

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Gary Cameron/Reuters

Over the weekend, the conservative commentator Ann Coulter posted a series of tweets, each more scathing than the last, criticizing Delta for moving her to a different seat. While her complaints were fairly successful — the airline refunded her the extra $30 it cost to sit an a row with extra legroom — the carrier also labeled her actions “unacceptable.” The exchange raised questions even for those passengers who aren’t as politically polarizing as Ms. Coulter: What is the most effective way to get good customer service?

After all Ms. Coulter’s complaints come amid a growing number of passenger complaints against United States carriers and their employees. Yes, the summer travel season is in full swing, with flights booked to capacity and airline staff stretched thin, but experts say that there are ways to get effective and even friendly service when you take to the skies:

Below are five tips on how:

Turn to Social Media. Air your grievance to the airline on its Twitter feed, Facebook page or both, but do it in a reasonable manner, said Rick Seaney, the founder of the airline advice site farecompare.com. “Don’t attack the airline because that puts them on the defensive.” So probably no memes mocking them. Instead, Mr. Seaney suggested letting the carrier know that you’re upset and then stating your complaint. When you post your issue on social media, he said, the airline perceives it as their brand being publicly tarnished and generally, they will reach out to you to resolve the matter privately.

Humanize Airline Employees. Customer service consultant and trainer Micah Solomon said that addressing employees by name is an incredibly strong tool to getting good service. If you’re interacting with an employee in person, be sure to also make eye contact and smile; if it’s on the phone, remember their name when they first give it to you, and address them by it throughout your call. “Airline employees are real people and want to be appreciated and respected, and using their name shows them that you do,” Mr. Solomon said. “In return, they’re more apt to help and respect you.” In his more than decade as a customer service consultant, he said that he has seen instance after instance of customer service agents in a variety of industries going the extra mile to be more helpful when the person they’re assisting addresses them by name.

If Possible, Have a Face-to-Face Interaction. If you’re at the airport and run into an issue with your flight or with the airline, such as a delayed, canceled or overbooked flight or lost luggage, Mr. Seaney said that it’s best to get it resolved in person. “On the phone, you’re anonymous to some degree, but you’re more likely to get compassion from an airline employee if you’re looking at him or her,” he said. If you’re at the gate, and the line to talk to an employee is long, he advised finding an employee at a different gate or even exiting security and finding one at the airline’s check-in area, which usually has more staff on hand than at the gate. Or, try Mr. Seaney’s go-to way, and head to the airline’s lounge, usually reserved for premium or frequent fliers, and explain your situation to one of the employee’s at the reception area. “I do this all the time, even if I don’t have access to the lounge and have never been turned away,” he said.

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