I believe this is a problem in all aspects of our lives. You encounter a situation where you’re not happy with the result. It might be that you flew on an 8 hour flight and the In Flight Entertainment (IFE) wasn’t working at all, or maybe you stayed at a hotel that you heard the constant up and down of the elevator. Either way, your experience was less than stellar. Maybe you are comfortable accepting that and moving on.
But if you aren’t, you might ask, how do you make your inconvenience known? Even better, how do you respectfully ask for consideration, since, after all, your experience was less than stellar? I mean, when I fly, I generally expect the IFE to work, I mean, that’s part of the reason I might have chosen that airline. When I stay at a hotel, if I’m not alerted to an issue, I don’t expect to learn about it after the fact.
Requesting a Gesture of Goodwill
I can’t remember where I learned this. It was either from FlyerTalk, View from the Wing, or another place I can’t think of. But, in my time, I’ve learned that asking for a Gesture of Goodwill often helps when you complain.
Key Considerations when asking for a Gesture of Goodwill
There are a few considerations, when you pull the Gesture of Goodwill card. First, I’d recommend that you keep your message short and sweet. When folks who are empowered to do things that you’d hope that they would do, they generally appreciate a short, succinct explanation of the issue. Further, they appreciate a proposed solution. If you lay out the issue, and forget to say what would make you happy, you are putting the onus on the empowered person, and you don’t guarantee that they will come to the same conclusion as you do. If you propose a solution, it is much easier for them to agree and make it happen.
But be sure not to ask for too much. A broken IFE doesn’t justify 50,000 miles, when you may have only paid 50,000 miles for the one way business class award. After all, you have to consider that you are still getting quite the experience–food, lay flat seat, actual travel from point A to point B. Be sure to ask for something reasonable.
An Example of a Successful Request
Requesting for something is hard. I get that. So I thought I’d share a successful request for a Gesture of Goodwill, just to give you an example, if not a template to work from.
Dear Mr. Smisek,
I am writing to inform you a surprisingly disappointing experience that I received on my return flight from Accra, Ghana on [Date]. I have both been a loyal United Airlines costumer for a decade, having made 1K last year, and been a Premier Executive in the Mileage Plus program for the previous two years. Generally speaking, I have been highly impressed by United’s service.
- That said I had put in for an upgrade using miles for my return flight from Accra on [Date and Flight #]. This upgrade did not appear to clear , up until about 2 hours before flight time (I had been in the lounge with internet access and saw I was #4 on the upgrade list, with 22 of 26 seats booked). I had thought, as has happened in the past, that a ground crew may move me before departure.
- While seated in the seat I ended up occupying for the entire flight, 21B, another gentleman came up, with the same seat. He had mentioned that his seat had been changed at the gate. While I thought this was a sign of an upgrade, it was not. I spoke to flight attendant Ms. [Include name, and anything else they wish to share], who attempted to clear up the mix-up, found the other gentleman a seat. In the final minutes before the doors were closed, the ground crew appeared to seat a number of individuals in Business class, while at the time, I could not be sure, I found more disturbing information when I made it home and checked online.
- Attached, I have included an image taken from the mobile United App. It shows that apparently my upgrade had in fact cleared, and I should have been seated in 9B. The 35,000 miles remain taken out of my account, and I did not in fact receive this upgrade.I have CCed Ms. [Flight attendant, if e-mail provided] on this e-mail, as she can verify that I was in seat 21B the entire flight.
- Given this divergence from the understood policy, due to the ground crew in Accra, I would greatly appreciate the return of the 35,000 miles that had been deducted from my account for the upgrade that I did not receive and a Gesture of Goodwill.
I would like to also note that the cabin crew of flight UA 991 on [Date] was spectacular. Given the circumstances, I thought [FA’s name] and her colleagues did an excellent job, and maintained the high quality of service throughout the duration of the flight, that I have come to appreciate over the years.
Ultimately I am sending this note in the hope that you may be able reinstate the 35,000 miles and offer a Gesture of Goodwill given the apparent breach in policy due to the ground crew in Accra.
Thank you in advance for your consideration.
Now of course the first thing you must be thinking is, Wow, this is a dated letter! And you’re right. Smisek was out months ago, but, back then he had an e-mail account that a special cadre of customer care associates checked. I’m not sure whether this trend continued, or to that matter, whether other airlines have emulated it.
For complete transparency, I ended up getting my 35,000 miles back, but unfortunately, United’s Gesture of Goodwill was only 10,000 more redeemable miles. I felt this was pretty unfortunate, but, the fact of the matter is, had I not asked, I would have gotten nothing.
Asking for a “Gesture of Goodwill” or at least complaining in a succinct fashion, generally gives you the opportunity to get some gesture from the airline that you would not otherwise have gotten. This of course goes to one of the lessons I learned from my father early on: If you don’t ask, you don’t know. I personally believe strongly in asking, although normally, I do shy away from complaining. I think in all of my time flying, I’ve probably submitted less than a half dozen letters of complaint. I suppose this is the case, because I hope that when I do, it carries with it, some level of gravity.
Have you ever written a complaint letter to an airline? If so, what did you receive (if anything)?