Office of Consumer Affairs
U.S. Department of Commerce
Washington, D.C. 20230

So that your dream vacation doesn't become a nightmare, plan ahead and consider the advice below.


Travel scams may seem a lot like genuine air fare and vacation package bargains. Consumers who complain about travel promotions are often contacted by a telemarketing firm or by postcard and told that they have won a prize. Vacation certificates, vouchers, club memberships and two-for-one offers are common travel promotions that may be too good to be true. To prevent problems:

  • never give your credit card or checking account number to a company when you are unsure of their reputation;
  • check out the travel firm with consumer protection agencies and the Better Business Bureau where the company is located;
  • get all details of travel offers, including restrictions and refund policies, in writing before you pay;
  • check out travel offers with the hotels, airlines, or cruise lines involved before you pay.
  • Sometimes problems occur even if you are careful. If you have a problem which involves:

  • a travel promoter who won't provide the trip or give you a refund, contact the Attorney General's Office in the state where the business is located.
  • contact or payment sent by mail, complain to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service's regional office where the business is located. Your local postmaster can give you the address.
  • an offer charged to your credit card, notify your credit card company.
  • In any case, complain to the National Fraud Information Center (NFIC) at 1-800-876-7060. The NFIC, a project of the National Consumers League, collects information and shares it with enforcement agencies. And send a copy of your complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Response Center, Washington, DC 20580. They don't handle individual complaints, but your letter might alert them to abuses requiring action.


    Air fares are constantly changing and savvy consumers can find low fares.Remember to:

  • make sure you know all restrictions on airline tickets and what will happen if your plans change;
  • protect your airline ticket, since lost tickets are very much like lost money; and
  • keep your valuables with you as you travel. Airlines aren't required to compensate you for lost jewelry, cameras, or other valuables.
  • If you have a problemwith an airline because...

  • your flight was delayed or cancelled, or you missed your connection, check with the airline to see if they will reroute you on another carrier or provide amenities such as a meal, phone call, or hotel room.
  • your flight was overbooked, and you were involuntarily bumped, you aren't entitled to compensation if you reached your destination within one hour of your scheduled arrival time. Beyond one hour, if you met the airline's check-in requirements, you may receive the face value of your ticket (for 1-2 hours late) or twice the amount of the ticket up to $400 (more than 2 hours late).
  • your baggage was lost, delayed, or damaged, notify the airline's airport staff immediately. The airline's maximum liability per passenger on domestic flights is $1,250; $9.07/lb., up to a maximum of $640 on international flights.
  • your plans change and you're due a refund for your charged ticket, the airline must send a credit to your credit card company within 7 business days of receiving the information needed to process the credit. If you have trouble getting your refund, write to your credit card company.
  • the airline doesn't resolve your problem, contact the U.S. Department of Transportation to report your service or safety complaint. File a service complaint with the Aviation Consumer Protection Division, U.S. Department of Transportation, C-75, Room 4107, 400 7th Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20590 (202/366-2220). Send complaints about safety or security to the Federal Aviation Administration, Community and Consumer Liaison Division (APA-200), 800 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, DC 20591 (202/267-3484 or 1-800-FAA-SURE).

    If you have a complaint about cruise line services, you may want to contact the Federal Maritime Commission. While the Commission can't require the cruise line to resolve your problem, they will try to help resolve the difficulty. Contact: Office of Informal Inquiries and Complaints, Federal Maritime Commission, 800 North Capitol Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20573 (202/523-5807).

    Passengers with complaints about cruise ship or terminal safety should call the U.S. Coast Guard's consumer hotline at 1-800-368-5647 for information on where to file a complaint. Report unsanitary conditions on cruise ships to the U.S. Public Health Service, Vessel Sanitation Program, 1015 North America Way, Room 107, Miami, FL 33132



    Complaints about railroad passenger service should be sent to Amtrak Customer Relations, Washington Union Station, 60 Massachusetts Avenue, N.E., Washington, DC 20002 (202/906-2121).

    Safety-related complaints should go to the Federal Railroad Administration, Office of Safety, Programs Division, 400 7th Street, S.W., 6th Floor, Washington, DC 20590



    The Federal Highway Administration will handle complaints about interstate bus service. Complaints are handled by writing the Federal Highway Administration, Office of Motor Carriers, 400 7th Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20590, Attention: John F. Grimm. Greyhound Lines complaints are handled by contacting Greyhound Lines, Inc., P.O. Box 660362, Dallas, TX 75266-0362, (214/849-8000). For complaints about interstate service on other bus lines write the Federal Highway Administration, Office of Motor Carriers, Section of Insurance, HMT-25, Room 4133, 1201 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20423.

    If your problem with bus lines is safety related, report it to the Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, 400 7th Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20590 (202/366-1790).

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    For more information about the Office of Consumer Affairs, contact:
    Office of Consumer Affairs
    U.S. Department of Commerce
    Room H5718
    Washington,DC 20230
    Phone: (202) 482-5001
    Fax: (202) 482-6007
    Consumer Response Line: (202) 482-8021
    Web site: