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How to Resolve Travel Disputes

Otherwise calm people can find themselves stressed out and yelling at the person at the front counter while traveling, but that never resolves anything. So take a deep breath and follow these guidelines when resolving travel disputes. For more travel-related tips and resources, see FindLaw's Airline Rules and Hotel and Rental Car Rules sections.

Talk to the Person with Power

Yelling at the clerk at the front desk about your room isn't likely to resolve anything for a variety of reasons. First, it's extremely unlikely that the person intentionally did something to make you angry. Given that whatever happened was likely unintentional, that person is vastly more likely to be sympathetic and helpful provided you don't start yelling at them and making it personal. The second you make it personal, an otherwise willing and cooperative person can and likely will turn against you.

Second, most "counter" employees in a business have very little actual power. So before going off on the clerk, explain that there's an issue with your accommodations and you need to speak to someone with the authority to resolve disputes. If that person is the clerk, then proceed accordingly, but often they must have a manager present since they are unable to make the changes themselves.

Find out who can solve your travel dispute and talk directly to them. The old phrase "don't shoot the messenger" is paramount here, don't take out your anger on the messenger who sits up at the front desk. It's unhelpful and will drastically reduce your ability to resolve disputes.

Don't Play the Blame Game

Ask yourself what really matters: assigning someone blame or just getting it "fixed". People often focus so heavily on getting someone to admit guilt for a travel dispute that they completely lose sight of what's really necessary. Maybe someone really did just mess up, drop the ball, or not do their job properly. While certainly annoying, does calling that person out actually do anything to resolve the issue?

Focus on getting a solution, not on assigning blame. Most people who legitimately did something wrong know it, and will be grateful if you get past the blame and work with them on fixing the problem. In fact, by not rubbing it in his or her face, you are much more likely to get your disputes resolved than if you forced the person to publicly admit his or her own fault.

Let Them Know You Are a Regular Customer

It's always worth discretely pointing out that you're a regular customer if you are. Don't throw it out there like a threat, but simply explain that you've been using their product or service for awhile and would like to continue doing so, but presently find the situation intolerable. Businesses aren't stupid, they know that repeat customers are vital to their business. They also know that travel disputes sometimes arise. Human nature, however, will conflict with good business sense if you use your repeat business as a threat, so just make it known without overdoing it.

Flexibility is Key

Although you may already have a solution in mind, be open to alternative solutions. If you've already decided you absolutely must have a new a room for example, you may be unable to resolve the problem if there aren't other suitable rooms available. Be open towards perhaps going and getting a cup of coffee while something is fixed, and receiving a reduction in the amount you owe. Consider an offer for a "free" service or a future discount in exchange for the inconvenience. There are always several different solutions to any problem, so be open to accepting any of them that will adequately solve the dispute.

If All Else Fails, Just Walk Away

When nothing is working, and reasonable minds aren't prevailing, then it may be time to cut your losses and just leave. It's not worth spending hours making a bad situation even worse, so if there is no solution in sight, remove yourself from the situation and find something that does work. By refusing inadequate solutions, you may be able to demand a refund at a later date.

Once you've accepted an alternative, however, it is very unlikely that you can argue for a refund after the fact, so make sure what you're accepting really does work for you. Don't escalate the situation or make it worse by letting your anger explode - once you've given negotiating a good faith effort, walk away and deal with the resolving the dispute after you get home.

Travel disputes sometimes occur, but knowing how to handle them will help you enjoy your vacation better. 

Next Steps
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