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Suing Northwest Airlines
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Lessons to be learned

  • Make note of the time, agents' names, and other pertinent information when you check in for a flight. (If you're traveling with companions, ask them to be equally observant. The more details and witnesses you have, the more likely you are to succeed with a compensation claim.)

  • If you're bumped involuntarily, demand compensation on the spot.

  • If the airline doesn't meet your request (e.g., if it tries to put the blame on you, as Northwest did in our case), don't hesitate to pursue compensation by mail after you get home.

  • Be polite but firm, and investigate the possibility of suing in small-claims court if the airline ignores your requests for a fair resolution.

  • Don't accept the airline's first offer if the evidence is on your side. Be prepared to negotiate. And remember: Travel vouchers are far cheaper than cash for airlines, so press for the maximum amount that you can get if you're offered free travel in lieu of money.

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