How to File a DOT Complaint with Department of Transportation

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As it’s the Sunday after Thanksgiving, which is one of the busiest travel days of the year, I thought I’d share details on how to file a DOT complaint, as a refresher should your travel not be as seamless as planned today or anytime you fly.

How to File a DOT Complaint with Department of Transportation

When it comes to filing a DOT complaint, it’s best to try to reach out to the airline first and express your frustration with them. Often when it comes to delays, lost bags, etc. airlines can be quite generous with compensation. Compensation could range from $200 vouchers to 20,000 bonus frequent flyer miles, so that is your first line of defense.

If you’ve complained to the airline already and they offered you less than satisfactory compensation, I’d recommend writing back that you aren’t satisfied and that you will be filing a DOT complaint, unless they can resolve your matter to what you think is fair and let them know what that is. Airlines do not like when they get DOT complaints, so are often willing to offer more compensation than normal, when you mention that you’re considering filing a DOT complain.

However, if you still are getting any progress, then you can file a DOT complaint on the Department of Transportation website. It’s actually quite a simple process, where you’ll need to fill in your information including name, address, email, phone. Then you’ll select which airline, your flight date, itinerary, and a description of the problem or inquiry, and even an option to upload a file with more details.

The DOT publishes a Air Travel Consumer Report, which contains information about the number of complaints they receive.

From the DOT website, sample complaints can include: 

  • Flight Delays
  • Mishandled Baggage
  • Oversales
  • Consumer Complaints
  • Customer Service Reports to the Transportation Security Administration
  • Airline Reports of the Loss, Injury, or Death of Animals During Air Transportation

Have you ever filed a DOT complaint before? What was the outcome of your complaint? Feel free to share details of your experience below.


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  1. There are a few things to understand when filing a complaint directly with the Aviation Consumer Protection Division. First, the Division (DOT) only acknowledges complaints, but does not address them. Instead, the Division fowards the complaint to the carrier in question and the carrier has 30 days to respond to the passenger, and advise the Division that the passenger has been replied to. Second, complaining to the Division immediately affects a carrier’s prestige, regardless whether the complaint is valid, and regardless whether the complaintant purchased airfare for travel on the carrier in question. The Division tallies up all complaints received and forwards the number to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics for publishment in the Airline Consumer Report. This report is used to measure carriers’ quality and, in part, determines awards recieved, such as JD Power. Complaining to the DOT, generally will not change the outcome of how a case is originally handled. Instead, since the Division forwards the complaint to a select few responders, who are educated, and know the contracts and regulations inside out, you will recieve a better explanation of why a case was originally handled the way it was. Airlines are generally disinclined to provide further compensation to DOT complaintants since the complaint has an intrinsic punative affect on the carrier, affecting its prestige in the public eye. So don’t expect much from complaining to the Division.

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