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Small Claims Court

File a Small Claim Against an Airline in 10 Minutes [Guide 2022]

Updated August 1st 2022

3 min read

If you have a complaint against an airline, what are your options?

File a Small Claim Against an Airline in 10 Minutes [Guide 2022]

File a Small Claim Against an Airline in 10 Minutes [Guide 2022]


Mary D


Dispute is the easiest & most accurate small claims platform with affordable ways to resolve every dispute.

Every day, nearly 3 million passengers fly in and out of U.S. airports. And while the majority of these people make it to their destination safely and uneventfully, others may suffer from lost luggage, flight cancellations that leave them stranded at an airport, or even physical assault or battery on the airplane. If you have a complaint against an airline, what are your options?

Travel can be exhausting, and poor airline service can make the experience even worse.

Common Types of Complaints Against Airlines

Although every airline complaint is different, many common complaints against airlines fall into the following categories:

  • Lost baggage
  • Delayed flights
  • Canceled flights
  • Missed flight connections
  • Assault or harassment on the plane
  • Failure to provide a refund

In some cases, you may be able to resolve these issues by complaining directly to the airline or to the Department of Transportation (DOT). But in other situations, your best option for recovery may be filing a claim in small claims court.

How to write a Demand Letter to an Airline

A demand letter is a formal letter asking for payment. Strongly worded demand letters on professional letterhead have a better chance of reaching a settlement out of court than regular letters. At Dispute, you can generate a demand letter in minutes.

  1. On the top, in the address block, put in the company name and address. You can find the registered agent at the bottom of this page.
  2. Next, put the subject line as 'Re: Demand for Payment'
  3. In one sentence, tell them how much American Airlines owes you which you will claim in your small claims lawsuit.
  4. Then, in two to three sentences describe your issue. (ex: why you are owed for Failure to deliver package)
  5. Finally, state in plain language that you will go to small claims court if necessary. Don't say that you will do anything else, such as speaking poorly about them.
  6. On the bottom, include your name and address

How to send a demand letter to an airline

After you write the demand letter to American Airlines, you’ll want to send it to their registered agent so that it’s guaranteed to go to the legal department. Make sure that you get a tracking number for the mail you send them. It can become important evidence in your case.

Demand letters are often mailed. But if you don’t have time to find a printer, buy an envelope, and visit a post office, we can mail it for you. Send your demand letter with just a click from the comfort of your home.

How to file your small claims forms against an Airline

If the airline does not pay you after receiving the demand letter, you can file a small claim to win your money back. Although this may sound complicated, small claims is actually less complicated than regular court. There are some county guidelines you’ll have to follow, but filing with Dispute can make it easier on you.

You’ll need to find and prepare your small claims form based on where you decide to sue. Usually, people sue where the defendant lives or does business.

Then, wherever you decide to sue, look up the county small claims system. They’ll provide details on their website about what small claims forms are necessary. You can read more about the small claims process here.

Filing a Complaint with the DOT

Depending on the situation, one option to resolve a dispute with an airline is to file a complaint directly with it. The DOT requires airlines to respond to consumer complaints within 60 days. If you're dissatisfied with the resolution the airline provides, or if the airline never responds to your complaint as required, you can move on to more serious actions.

The DOT frequently resolves complaints against airlines. Some of the common complaints it addresses include:

  • The airline oversold a flight
  • The airline lost, delayed, or damaged passenger luggage
  • The airline refused to process a flight refund
  • The flight was delayed, causing the passenger to miss a connecting flight
  • The airline wouldn't allow a parent to sit with their child
  • The airline refused to honor a rewards or frequent flyer program

Depending on the circumstances, you may be entitled to compensation from the airline.

To file a claim with the DOT, you'll need to submit an online complaint form available on the DOT's website. ‍After you submit a claim, the DOT will process it within a few weeks, then forward it to the airline and request a response. Then, the DOT will assign an analyst to review the claim and ensure that the airline is complying with all federal consumer protection practices and regulations.

But while the DOT will use your claim to track trends, it doesn't have strong enforcement authority on its own, so it may not be able to force an airline to provide you the relief you're requesting.

Filing a Small Claims Lawsuit Against an Airline

Another option to help recover damages for an airline's actions is by filing a small claims complaint. Small claims lawsuits are designed to allow claimants to pursue damages below a certain amount without requiring them to hire an attorney to litigate the case. Small claims courts have streamlined, simplified procedures to make them more accessible.

How to File Small Claims Paperwork Against an Airline

To file against an airline, you’ll need to find small claims paperwork. Some states have one form for filing small claims, but other counties have their own forms. So do your research and find the form that is relevant to your location.

When you fill out a form, you’ll need a few basic pieces of information. Some states require additional information, but here’s information you’ll need for sure.

  1. Plaintiff (your name)
  2. Plaintiff address
  3. Defendant name
  4. Defendant address
  5. Claim amount
  6. Courthouse county

Your state may require email addresses, phone numbers, or military status, or other pieces of information. You may find filling out these forms to be complicated. But Dispute simplifies the filing process and using our tools is much faster.

You won’t have to worry about tracking paperwork or going to the post office when you file with use. Nor will you need to navigate outdated or confusing websites. Find all the information you need on your dashboard.

How to Send Your Small Claims Documents to Court

There are a few options when sending your paperwork to court.

  1. In person. You can give them your documents at their physical address. You would need to print multiple copies to file, find a payment method that they accept, and schedule a time in your day when the courts are open for you to give your paperwork to the court clerk.
  2. Mail File. Again, you would need to print multiple copies. But you’d also need to get a shipping label, and envelope, and payment method. Some courthouses require money orders, others require checks. So check your local courthouses’ guidelines on mail filing.
  3. E-Filing. Some courthouses accept e-filing, which you can do on the courthouse website.
  4. Fax Filing

Every courthouse has different procedures and guidelines. It’s important to do research so that your case has the best chance of making it to court. With Dispute, we make the filing process simple. Sign into your dashboard and easily navigate the small claims process. We’ll take care of the filing for you. Once your paperwork is ready, you’ll just have to pay fees and Dispute will take care of the rest.

Case updates will be sent to your dashboard, and all paperwork will be nicely organized for you. Skip the hassle of research and document management. Let us prepare it for you.

What if I want to Ask a Lawyer for Advice?

You may find that you want legal advice or insight on your case. While there are many free legal resources available, sometimes you need a lawyer. Check out our guide on finding a lawyer. Although they’re not required for small claims court, you can still consult one if you’d like.

Get Dispute to file your small claims case online today. Win back the money you deserve.

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