Travel has been picking up, and airlines haven’t always scaled their call center capacity to match. Add in some bad weather – take Denver, for instance, on Monday where there was snow and more delays than any other airport in the world – and wait times to speak to an airline agent really grow. This has been an issue across airlines, and even wait times for elite frequent flyers who get call center priorities have been longer than usual at times lately.
American Airlines customers, especially, reported long wait times on Monday and into Tuesday – 5 to 8 hours, even – and customers are bringing receipts.
— Adam Habibi (@adam_hab) April 20, 2021
@AmericanAir My callback was requested and promised by midnight — up to four hours from 8 p.m. when I placed request.
Why y’all calling me eight hours later at 4:06 a.m.? Who died? Scared the heck out of me. pic.twitter.com/ruwB4zV6B0
— Matthew Cappucci (@MatthewCappucci) April 20, 2021
If you find yourself facing long hold times and need for assistance with a reservation:
- Try twitter. Wait times for assistance via twitter direct message seemed to hover around an hour, based on social media reports. Plus you don’t have to wait on hold.
- Dial an international call center. The U.K. call center, or Australia – which rings to Fiji or Trinidad depending on time of day – offers agents who speak English. For simple requests like flight changes you may be able to get help from a call center that isn’t backed up, and when there’s bad weather in the U.S. it’s usually just U.S. call centers that face delays. (For Delta I’ve always used their Singapore dial-in.)
- Use the app. If you could do whatever it is you need online or via mobile app, you probably wouldn’t be trying to call, which is why it’s so frustrating to have to wait through automated messages when you do call telling you to go online. But American’s app has become more functional over the past couple of years for dealing with rebooking during irregular operations. So it’s worth trying there first.
- Seek help from a live person. If you’re at the airport, you have the ticket counter, gate, customer service, and – if you have access – the club (of course many of those are still closed, though American isn’t provided reductions in fees for access). If you’re facing an 8 hour wait to speak to an agent, it could even make sense to go to the airport…
- Find help from an elite member. Use your social media to find an elite, that faces a shorter hold time, to assist you in getting through. You probably know someone through Facebook or Twitter that might help.
- Accept a callback. Even if you don’t think you need it, or hope you won’t, set up a callback because 8 hours from now it will be nice to have an agent ring you. If you don’t answer you aren’t wasting an agent’s time or taking time away from someone else, since the automated system won’t connect you to a person until you’ve answered. This is just a way to virtually wait in line, worth having as a backup.
- Make your own plans without the airline. If your flight cancels you can get a refund (later). If you paid for your trip with the right credit card and your flight is sufficiently delayed or cancelled you likely have coverage to help pay for unexpected costs like hotels, meals, and ground transport. If you have miles you may be able to secure another flight without substantial out of pocket. Find a way to solve your own problem, and take up the issue of compensation later, rather than waiting for an airline to help you.
- Know exactly what you want when you do connect. Do your research ahead of time. Know what flight you want to change to, or exactly what you need and are entitled to, so that the call is as painless as possibel. During irregular operations flight availabiltiy can change rapidly, so have open a tool (even if it’s just the airline’s website) to find real-time flight availability and know exactly what sort of rebooking to ask for.
This advice is not at all limited to American Airlines.