The Power of the Pen, Part II



Several years ago I took a trip from Boston to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with a connecting flight in London. The first plane landed in London around seven in the morning, right on schedule. I had put a lot of effort into making sure I wouldn’t have a lengthy layover at the airport and was happy that my next flight would leave in about two hours.



However, as I dragged my bag to another terminal for the connection, I was notified that the flight from London to Malaysia would be delayed. The counter clerk couldn’t tell me how long the delay would be and didn’t have a reason for it. She gave me two meal tickets, redeemable at any restaurant in the airport, and told me to keep a close watch on the departure board for further flight information.

airport board

My anticipated two-hour wait turned into eleven. Weary passengers started to board the plane at six in the evening. Like automatons, we filed into our seats and settled in for the flight.



I enjoyed my few weeks in Malaysia and flew back home without incident or delay. But as days went by, I started to stew over that delay in London. No apologies, no explanation. To the airline, we were human cargo. At least, that’s how it felt to me. The obligatory meal tickets we were given had done little to relieve the stress and aggravation of the lengthy delay.


I wrote to the airline to voice my complaint and used a formula that had worked for me in the past:

  • Tell the company what I like about their service. If I’d used them many times, tell them I’ve been a loyal customer.
  • Politely voice my complaint.
  • Suggest a remedy. Tell the company what they can do to satisfy my grievance and restore my faith in their service.

In a nutshell, I told the airline that I’d flown with them many times without incident and had been pleased with their service. Next, I voiced my complaint about the delay and that we were never given a reason for it. For the grand finale, I suggested that since the delay had cost me nine additional hours of what precious little vacation time my employer had given me, that it would be nice if they gave me a free round-trip voucher good for any flight in the United States to help with my next vacation.



Guess what? It didn’t take long before I received the voucher I’d asked for. Even I was surprised. It had been a long shot to ask for that much compensation, but I was downright pleased about the outcome.



Sometimes it’s true that you have not because you ask not.


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