3 US Airlines Offer the Worst Hold Times in America. Here’s What You Can Do About It.

Based on an analysis of 600,000 twitter complaints containing the phrase “on hold with” airlines are the second worst industry for keeping customers on hold, behind your cable company.

A full 20% of the complaints logged were about airlines, and it could be that the issue is even worse than this. Many people don’t complain about being on hold with airlines because they expect to be. For instance, Apple is at the top of the list of complaints. That doesn’t mean Apple’s hold times are the worst, just that customers are shocked enough to be on hold that when they are they complain.

The top 10 companies for hold time complaints, based on this Twitter survey: Apple, Verizon, Bank of America, Comcast (parent company of NBC News), Sprint, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, the Internal Revenue Service and AT&T.

In this survey Southwest, Delta, and United telephone customer service is comparable to what the IRS provides.

My biggest frustrations with telephone holds:

  • When you wait for an hour and then the call drops (or the customer service agent hangs up on you)
  • When you’re at the airport trying to deal with an issue with the clock counting down to departure
  • When the voice recording begins with “higher than normal call volumes” and the same recording plays 365 days a year
  • When the phone system won’t even let you wait in the queue they’re so overloaded (Northwest used to just drop you)
  • When the phone system melts down and won’t recognize your elite number…

Three key resources to avoid long holds:

  1. GetHuman.com which gives you contact workarounds for major companies.

  2. LucyPhone.com which is wait on hold for you and call you back when you’re connected to an agent.

  3. International call centers, Skype to Singapore or Australia, if a weather issue is melting down an airline operations in the US their phone numbers for call centers abroad don’t usually get backed up.

And if you’re traveling same day, remember that you have several different bites at the apple at the airport: check-in counter, kiosks, customer service counter, gates (including ones that aren’t your own, but don’t disturb agents trying to work a flight), and club lounge if you have access.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Airlines are an oligoply that’s why they can get away with shitty service. If Obama was truly a liberal and not a spineless, please everyone lap dog we would have had more competition in the airline industry.

    Liberal only in actual rhetoric (LIAR)

  2. Glad you pointed out that it’s Obamas fault because I was getting kind of worried about how well things are going to work out with the same Republicans in the Senate and the House that have been there for the last 8 years and more.

    I guess now with Obama leaving they’ll be freed up to fix things like hold times when calling customer service centers. Whew!

  3. LOL! That’ll show em! Sit out the election to assure Trump ends them. This is why since Bush they teach in the schools of the modern Nations that half of the American people are dumb–as-rocks rednecks who no longer have the smarts to support a democracy. High schoolers in Spain and Australia had never before heard of any people so stupid they would believe in large numbers lies like Hillary running a child prostitution ring out of a DC Pizza Parlor. Democracy killed by dumbest on planet!

  4. @Credit You really think the airline industry has anything to do with Obama? If so, you’re not very bright. The airlines had bad wait times in the 80s when Obama was in his 20s. Don’t try to blame it on him, it’s flat out nonsense.

  5. I have no love for republicans but with the results dnc has put up in the elections there would be mass layoffs if this was a private for profit, professionally managed outfit. Has leader of v the Democrats Obama has to take most blame. Republicans play to win, by hook or crook. Democrats (especially Obama ) play top please. On that respect he hasn’t come out of his slavery mindset. He still had the need to kiss white ass (on this car republican.)

    Trump may turn out to be a disaster but oBama turned out to be inconsequential. The greatest speech giver couldn’t communicate and build consensus.

  6. Interesting how discussion of this post took a political turn…not that I mind political discussions here. I kind of agree with both sides of the discussion, in that Obama’s DOJ did facilitate anti-competitive industry “consolidation” to a point where airlines (like cable companies) don’t have to provide decent customer service (via the phone or otherwise), but in the very big picture what the DOJ did was nothing compared to what most Republican politicians favor, which in turn may well be nothing compared to what Trump will do to the country.

    As for the post itself, Gary: very useful. Thanks. Though the one other piece of advice I’d offer to a travel-oriented audiences concerned about phone and other customer service is to NEVER book through Expedia.

  7. Many airlines now have a policy to immediately drop calls that come in from virtual hold services, as the airline can’t guarantee that any personal data given isn’t being recorded.

    Delta along with other airlines do a virtual hold of their own though.

  8. Nice post. Interesting that airlines have service levels like the IRS.
    Oh and on the political stuff, Obama prolonged the recession by throwing money we don’t have at it. He blames everyone else for his failure to improve things but really has no responsibility for airline hold times or seat pitch. I don’t want him involved in such either.
    Greg, we aren’t a democracy we are a republic which is why Hillary lost and the states via the electoral college picked Trump.

  9. You all are making fun of the IRS. Try to call them some time. I have been on hold with them for over and hour and get dropped or told “Sorry but you do not have Power of Attorney on file” ( I do because I can get into their files).

    When an IRS call center person says they can only talked to the decedent or a person authorized by the decedent then you know you are talking to an idiot who only got a 6th grad education.

  10. The links provided in the story sound like good solutions to horrible phone-wait situations that we find ourselves in during bad times:

    Thankyou for the advice.

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