STAND YOUR GROUND: Creative Airline Complaining

The airlines control the altitude.

The passengers controls the attitude.

Vicki Rush, CEO of A&I Travel in East Memphis (, says if you keep your cool in the face of a flight cancellation, you're less likely to have to make a sacrifice in order to get your way.

"Sometimes you have to sacrifice a rooster," jokes Rush.

That's a funny way of saying sometimes, you have to take a deep breath, swallow your pride and follow these three rules:

* CHART YOUR OWN FLIGHT OPTIONS.  If your flight or connection is cancelled, Rush says don't panic.  Pull out your cell phone, laptop or PDA instead.  Call a travel agent, or use the Internet to surf the airline's web site and third-party sites like and to find other flights to your destination.

Then quietly and confidently approach a ticket agent.

"And say, 'I know that you don't often do this. I also know that Northwest has a flight in another hour. Would you please issue me a ticket on that airline?'" Rush role-plays.

"It doesn't always work, but it's one of those things that at least you have always in your pocket.  You presented yourself to the counter agent with a problem. They've cancelled the flight, but if you can also present a solution, then sometimes they will go along with it and say, 'O.K.'"

* AGENT'S NAME, GATE NUMBER, TIME OF REFUND OFFER.  If there are no other flight options on your airline, Rush says agents generally do not like to write non-refundable tickets over to other airlines.  That means the agent just might offer you a cash or credit refund so that you may buy a ticket on another airline.  She says if that happens, immediately write down the agent's name, the gate number or counter number of the agent's location and the time when the refund was offered.

"You can say, 'I talked to John Smith. He was at Gate 33 in O'Hare and at 4:00 pm.' You will at least have a stronger leg to stand on," says Rush.

* NEVER SAY "NEVER."  As in, "I'm never flying your stinking airline again!"  That sends the message that the airline has already lost you, and you're not worth helping.

Nationally-known travel advocate Peter Greenberg ( adds a couple more:

* NEVER TAKE "NO" FROM SOMEONE WHO DOESN'T HAVE THE POWER TO SAY "YES."  Seek out the airport or airline official who has the most seniority at your location.  Nicely request to speak to a supervisor.  Calmly explain your problem to the supervisor and follow the first three rules!

* AFTER THE FACT, NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS, WRITE A LETTER.  Either to complain or to praise, send a letter to the CHAIRMAN of the airline.  Send it certified mail, return receipt requested.  Also, send a copy to:

Consumer Affairs Office

Aviation Consumer Protection Division, C-75

U.S. Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Ave. SE

Washington, D.C. 20590