Yesterday I wrote about how I filed a complaint with the DOT regarding the Aeroplan issued award tickets for travel in Swiss first class that were made available over a week ago. Based on statements from Aeroplan, it appears that Swiss has no intention of honoring these confirmed award tickets.
While I won’t go so far as to sue any party here, it only seemed reasonable to file a complaint, if for no other reason than to see how the DOT rules here. I filed my complaint yesterday, and 24 hours later received the following email from the DOT, which I figured I’d share, in case anyone else is wondering what the process looks like:
Dear Mr. Schlappig:
This responds to your communication regarding Air Canada and Swiss Air. The U.S. Department of Transportation seeks to ensure that all airline passengers are treated fairly. Complaints from consumers are helpful to us in determining whether the airlines are in compliance with our rules and to track trends or spot areas of concern that warrant further action.
I will forward your complaint to the airline and ask the company to respond directly to you with a copy to us. Airlines are required to acknowledge receipt of a consumer complaint within 30 days and provide a substantive response to the complainant within 60 days. I will review the airline’s response. If you need to contact me please email me at [email protected] Please include your name and case number (see above).
If my review of your complaint and the response from the company discloses a potential violation of our rules, our office may pursue enforcement action. Generally, our office pursues enforcement action on the basis of a number of complaints which may indicate a pattern or practice of violating our rules. Your complaint may be among those considered and may lead to appropriate enforcement action including the assessment of civil penalties. However, our office has no authority to order compensation for individual complainants.
I have entered your complaint in our computerized industry monitoring system, and it will be counted among the number of complaints filed against this airline in our monthly Air Travel Consumer Report. This report allows consumers and air travel companies to compare the complaint records of individual airlines and tour operators. The data in this report also serve as a basis for rulemaking, legislation and research. Consumer information for air travelers, including the Air Travel Consumer Report and our pamphlet Fly-Rights, a Consumer’s Guide to Air Travel, can be found on our website: www.transportation.gov/airconsumer. Thank you for taking the time to contact us.
Aviation Consumer Protection Division
Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings
As expected, there’s not going to be any overnight resolution here, but rather this is just the start of a process. The airlines (it seems they’re contacting Air Canada and Swiss here) have a month to acknowledge the complaint, and then two months to respond. So I don’t expect action will be taken overnight, though if there are a large number of complaints, it certainly may cause the DOT to get more involved.
I’m at least impressed that I already got more than just an automated response. Not only do I have the direct email address of someone at the DOT, but they also clearly read the complaint, since I selected Swiss as the airline I was filing the complaint against in the dropdown menu, yet they mention both Air Canada and Swiss. I’m curious whether Aeroplan or Air Canada is the party responsible on the issuing side, since Aeroplan is the loyalty program, while Air Canada is the airline that issued the ticket (due to their relationship).
I’ll be curious to see how this plays out, though I expect this is the last I’ll be hearing from the DOT or either airline regarding my complaint in the next two months (hopefully Aeroplan reaches out as promised to provide alternatives, though I still haven’t heard from them).