Travel often is marred by glitches. Airlines, cruise lines, hotels and tour operators may disappoint. To whom should a traveler turn? In many cases there's an agency somewhere that wants to hear your complaints.
A few general rules apply:
* Write down a detailed account of your problem.
* Complain as soon as possible after the problem has occurred.
* When asking for compensation, specify the amount.
* Begin with your travel agent, if you used one. Next, write to the company that made you unhappy and keep a copy of your letter and their reply. If the response is unsatisfactory, consider contacting an organization listed below:
Travel Consumer Restitution Corp.: This quasi-public agency reimburses California consumers who don't get services they paid for from California-based travel sellers. For claim forms, contact the organization at P.O. Box 6001, Larkspur, CA 94977-6001; fax (415) 927-7698. (No public phone, Web site or e-mail is available.)
California attorney general: To check on the registration of a travel seller or register a complaint, contact the office at 300 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90013; telephone (213) 897-8065, fax (213) 897-8846. For broader questions about companies that do business in California, contact the attorney general's Public Inquiry Unit, P.O. Box 944255, Sacramento, CA 94244-2550; tel. (800) 952-5225, fax (916) 323-5341, Internet http://caag.state.ca.us/piu/mailform.htm.
American Society of Travel Agents: This trade group takes complaints about its member companies. Contact ASTA's Consumer Affairs Department, 1101 King St., Suite 200, Alexandria, VA 22314; tel. (703) 739-8739, fax (703) 684-8319, http://www.astanet.com.
U.S. Tour Operators Assn.: Another trade group that tracks complaints about its members. Contact USTOA at 342 Madison Ave., Suite 1522, New York, NY 10173; tel. (212) 599-6599, fax (212) 599-6744, http://www.ustoa.com.
Better Business Bureau: Regarding businesses in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, call (909) 825-7280, fax (909) 825-6246 or go to http://www.bbbsouthland.org. In Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, call (805) 963-8657, fax (805) 962-8557 or go to http://www.santabarbara.bbb.org.
U.S. Department of Transportation: This agency takes travelers' complaints, mostly about airlines. Contact DOT, C-75, Room 4107, Washington, DC 20590; tel. (202) 366-2220, http://www.dot.gov/airconsumer/problems.htm.
PassengerRights.com: This Web site lets travelers lodge complaints with airlines and federal officials. It's a commercial venture (aimed at winning paid subscribers to a newsletter), but its free features can be handy.