I've recently run into issues with things like outlets not providing any power, seats not reclining even when they definitely should, etc. Obviously they can't fix it during the flight, so it seems like pointless whining to bring it up. I would like their maintenance crew to know it's broken, so they can fix it the next time they get a chance, but I'm not sure the best way to inform them. Maybe they do regular inspections for that sort of thing, and they wouldn't be able to fix it sooner regardless of what I do. I'm hesitant to inform the flight attendants, because I don't want them to think I'm obnoxious, and I have no idea if this is part of their responsibilities or not.

If there is a non-urgent problem with the plane that cannot be addressed in-flight, who should I notify, if anyone?

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    Some airlines have a mechanism for the cabin crew to give you some frequent flyer miles or some other compensation for problems like these, so it may be worthwhile to let them know when they're not otherwise very busy. Nov 2, 2017 at 9:08
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    Unfortunately, many airline couldn’t care less about fixing such things. I have been flying LH cross the atlantic for years, and I already know which seats on which planes have problems. They don’t care to fix them for years now.
    – Aganju
    Nov 2, 2017 at 12:15
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    That's an unfortunate choice of words: "If a meal is served, it would be very considerate to bring it up"...
    – Toby
    Nov 2, 2017 at 17:36
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    What cannot be fixed by mending the seat, power outlet, etc. can often be fixed by moving you to another seat. Also, even if it is on no way security related, I don't consider failures such as a non-reclining seast or non-working audio for your entertainment system minor if I'm stuck with it for 12 hours or more Nov 2, 2017 at 21:54
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    If the issue is a non-reclining seat, and it is one that is supposed to recline, perhaps someone is using the Knee Defender, but be aware, its use is problematic and perhaps against the rules
    – CGCampbell
    Nov 3, 2017 at 15:33

5 Answers 5


I'm hesitant to inform the flight attendants

Don't overthink, inform cabin crew politely and that's it. They will generally know how to handle and will definitely know if, how and where to escalate the matter further.

Flight attendants or cabin crew (also known as stewards/stewardesses, air hosts/hostesses, cabin attendants) are members of an aircrew employed by airlines primarily to ensure the safety and comfort of passengers aboard commercial flights, on select business jet aircraft, and on some military aircraft.

These issues fall under the comfort category. It would be very considerate to request assistance about these when they are not very busy.

In addition, sometimes they can make the seat recline even after 10 fruitless tries by the passenger.

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    If you can avoid it, probably best not to bring your meal up; it tends to upset the other passengers.
    – Strawberry
    Nov 2, 2017 at 11:36
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    "Hi, reads attendant's name tag Julie! I just tried plugging my charger into the outlet here and it seems not to be charging. I should be OK as I topped up in the waiting area before boarding and should have enough power for the rest of the trip, but I thought I'd mention it so someone can look into it once the plane's on the ground." Using the attendant's name, having a nice smile on your face, and mentioning it as an inconvenience, but not the end of the world will get you everywhere. It might even get you some frequent flyer miles as Zach Lipton noted!
    – FreeMan
    Nov 2, 2017 at 11:53
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    +1 but note that after meal service is often the only decent break the crews get -- so don't seek them out or press the call button for something minor if they're not visible Nov 2, 2017 at 13:45
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    You never know, they might find that the person behind you has used a "Knee Defender"...in which case they could fix the problem right away. Nov 2, 2017 at 14:35
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    @user3067860 as a tall person, my knee defender is actually my knees - though I also try to book a seat with more legroom...
    – Rycochet
    Nov 2, 2017 at 14:47

During a time between services, say something like:

This power outlet isn't working in case you want to write it up.

They will not inform the Captain or call base or anything so dramatic, but the Flight Attendants do have a log for such things.


Tell a flight attendant. They actually can do things like reset the power system, which at least once in my experience actually worked.

If they can't resolve the issue, though, you can also send feedback to the airline. This ensures that the issue gets reported to maintenance, and may also net you some frequent flyer points or coupons as an apology. Also note that the feedback forms almost always ask "Did you raise this issue with cabin crew?", so you should still do this first.

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    Good point about the reset. It's possible that someone on the same circuit as you drew too much current and tripped the circuit breaker. Resetting should fix it in that case. The current limit on airline power outlets tends to be low. IFE systems can also be reset to fix problem sometimes.
    – reirab
    Nov 3, 2017 at 4:26

It's always possible that whatever you want to do actually works, but you are simply doing it wrong. Maybe you are pulling the wrong lever of your seat into the wrong direction or you are not pushing the plug deep enough into the socket. So you should ask the flight attendant:

Excuse me, I can't get my [thing] to [perform intended function]. Can you help me?

This is far more polite than just complaining about something being broken, especially when it turns out it is not.

If it turns out it's not you and the [thing] is actually broken, the flight attendant will report it to the maintenance crew so it can get fixed.

  • I'm 100% sure it wasn't me doing it wrong in both cases, but that's still a great suggestion on how to raise the issue without sounding whiny.
    – Kat
    Nov 4, 2017 at 2:08

This is actually a huge opportunity - to get reward miles. Wait until the flight is done, log into the frequent flier account and use an online complaint function to write a note to the airline. Be specific about what flight and exactly where in the aircraft the problem was. Ask for some free reward miles as compensation for the inconvenience.

For example, my arm rest on a flight from Seattle to Detroit would not stay up - it would fall down each time I put it up. It is obvious the flight attendant can't fix it. So I just waited until the flight was done, logged into my Delta Skymiles frequent flier account, and filed a complaint. They sent me an email saying "sorry, here's several thousand miles, we'll fix the arm rest."

It is a sort of win-win scenario. The learn about a maintenance issue, with a strong paper trail, and you'll get reward mile.

  • Has this been successfully attempted?
    – Daze
    Nov 3, 2017 at 16:59
  • @Daze Yeah. Delta gave me 5000 miles for writing a letter to them about an arm rest. Have done it on other occasions with other airlines too, but so far only United, Delta, and AA. Nov 3, 2017 at 17:04
  • By letter, did you mean physical letter through the postal service?
    – Daze
    Nov 3, 2017 at 17:12
  • @Daze No, I did it online. I forget how exactly, but I remember logging into my Skymiles account and corresponding from within the account. Let me update my answer again. Nov 3, 2017 at 17:21
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    You seem to assume everybody is a saving airmiles from the airlines. I always assume most people in a plane fly so rarely that saving miles is not useful at all.
    – Willeke
    Nov 4, 2017 at 11:18

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