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Air Travel Complaints

Obtaining Assistance to Resolve Air Travel  Complaints

Air Travelers Have Rights.

Federal laws protect airline passengers by specifying airlines’ obligations, including when a flight is oversold, luggage is mishandled, a flight is delayed on the tarmac, and refunds are requested.  Federal laws also prohibit airlines from discriminating against an air traveler on the basis of his or her disability, race, color, national origin, religion, sex, or ancestry.

DOT’s aviation consumer protection website provides information on key topics of interest to air travelers organized by topic.  For additional convenience, DOT maintains a “Fly Rights” guide, as an easy to use reference for air travelers.  

Air Travel Issues.

Airline Safety: For information on reporting an airline safety issue visit the Federal Aviation Administration’s Hotline webpage here

Aviation Security: For concerns about aviation security call the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) toll-free at 1-866-289-9673 or email TSA.  For additional information, visit the TSA website.

Non-safety or security air service related issues: For the fastest resolution of many air service related issues, contact an Airline or Ticket Agents’ Customer Service Representative.  You may also contact DOT's Office of Aviation Consumer Protection.

Disability-Related Air Travel Issues.

If you encounter a disability-related issue about an airline accommodation or service, ask to speak to the airline’s Complaint Resolution Official (CRO).  A CRO is the airline’s expert in disability related issues in air travel and has the authority to resolve complaints on behalf of the airline.

Air travelers who experience disability-related problems may also call DOT’s toll-free hotline for air travelers with disabilities 1-800-778-4838 or 1-800-455-9880 (TTY) to obtain assistance.  The hotline will provide general information about the rights of air travelers with disabilities, respond to requests for printed consumer information, and assist air travelers with disabilities with time-sensitive disability-related issues.  The hours for the hotline are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday, except federal holidays.

Air travelers who believe their rights have been violated or are unable to resolve an issue to their satisfaction may file complaints with the airline, ticket agent and/or DOT.

Filing a complaint with an airline or a ticket agent.

  • DOT requires airlines to acknowledge consumer complaints within 30 days of receiving them and to send consumers written responses addressing these complaints within 60 days of receiving them (30 days for disability-related complaints).
  • DOT also asks that ticket agents respond to consumer who file complaints with them.
  • DOT requires airlines that fly to, from, or within the United States to state on their websites how and where complaints can be submitted.  There may be a form on the airline’s website for this purpose.  Often, you may also email or write to the airline or ticket agent’s consumer office at its headquarters.

Filing a complaint or comment with DOT.

  • Use this online form to send a complaint or comment to DOT about an air travel consumer or civil rights (including disability) related issue or experience.
  • You may send DOT correspondence by mail at the address below.
    • When mailing a letter, please include your full address and phone number as well as complete and accurate information about your trip and the problem you had or are having.

Office of Aviation Consumer Protection 
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC  20590

  • You may contact DOT by phone at 202-366-2220 for information related to a consumer related problem.  However, for a case to be processed as a complaint, it must be submitted to DOT in writing.

Private legal action. You may be able to seek recourse through small claims court.  Click here for more information. 

DOT’s Consumer Complaint Process. 

For Disability and Discrimination Complaints

  • A Transportation Industry Analyst will forward your complaint to the airline and the airline is required to respond to you and DOT. 
  • Once the airline’s response is received, a DOT analyst will review your complaint and the airline’s response to determine if a violation occurred.  After the analyst reviews your case, it will be given to an attorney for review.  Once your case is reviewed by an attorney, an analysis with findings will be sent to you.  Please note that due to the volume of cases received, and the thoroughness of this process, it may take some time to fully process your case.

For All Other Complaints 

  • A Transportation Industry Analyst will forward your complaint to the airline or ticket agent. The airline or ticket agent will provide you a written response. The analyst will ask the airline and ticket agent to provide a copy of the response to DOT if it falls under one of the areas DOT's Office of Aviation Consumer Protection enforces.  The DOT analyst will then review the case to determine whether a violation occurred.  
  • If your complaint involves an air travel service issue, regardless of whether DOT's Office of Aviation Consumer Protection has enforcement authority in the area, it will be logged in its database and included in the total number of complaints that is reported in DOT's monthly Air Travel Consumer Report.  It will also help DOT spot trends in the airline industry and may be the basis for rulemaking action. 

Review of DOT Complaints.

  • DOT's Office of Aviation Consumer Protection intends to conduct a comprehensive review of air travel service complaints annually to determine the extent to which regulated entities are complying with the laws that it enforces and to track trends or spot areas of concern that may warrant further action.  This review may form the basis for investigations and possible enforcement action and regulatory actions.

Statistics on the number of complaints filed with DOT.

  • Every month, DOT publishes its Air Travel Consumer Report, which contains information about the number and type of air travel service complaints DOT receives about airlines and ticket agents.  This report is made available to the public so that consumers and air travel companies can compare the complaint records of individual airlines, ticket agents, and tour operators.
  • In addition to complaints, the report also contains statistics that the airlines file with us on flight delays, cancellations, bumping, mishandled baggage, and other helpful information.
     
Last updated: Thursday, February 18, 2021