7 Hour Telephone Hold Times Reaching Delta, How To Get Through Quickly

Over the weekend the operation of Southwest, American, Spirit, JetBlue and Delta all melted down. There was bad weather in Florida, and some IT issues, but things were systematically worse than one would expect even given these issues. United was relatively spared.

Getting through to airlines was nearly impossible. Delta has recently made it harder, since they no longer let you dial an international call center to get through to different agents – generally who aren’t busy when U.S. operations have problems. The Singapore call center, most-used for this by English speakers, now dump into the regular reservations queue.

When faced with hour long hold times, Delta has told customers their best bet it to email the CEO. They’ve been among the worst with call center hold times throughout the pandemic. At one point top tier frequent flyers were waiting up to 41 hours to speak to an agent when they called.

A reader asked me yesterday what to do when they needed help with a reservation after a flight was cancelled, and they reported a six hour hold time. Fortunately there is a workaround! Delta has a dedicated number with priority for travel within 48 hours: 1-855-548-2505.

I shared this, and the reader let me know it worked,

You are a lifesaver, 15 minutes on hold instead of six hours, and the woman actually seemed to know what she was doing.

Bookmark this number in your phone, you may need it.

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. Good to know, as I have a Delta flight coming up soon. I’ve added the number to my phone directory.

  2. thank you. my experience, wait time 5 hours, requested call back, and when the call back happen there is no person at all on the line. This is diamond desk experience.

  3. I have never had this problem because I would call the non-English call centers first. If that queue is too long, try calling European call centers on a VPN/Skype connection.

  4. Gary, any advice for Singapore airlines? I’ve tried twice and after a half hour each time I spoke to an “agent” who didn’t seem to be able to help with anything. The first time they said an award redemption agent would call my back in a few hours(they never did). The second time the “agent”, after trying to connect me with an agent who could actually help for a half hour suggested that I call back in a few hours. This was 8pm last night. I’ve tried 833-727-0118 and 800-742-3333. It’s really frustrating that they have somebody to answer the phone but that person can’t help you with anything other than try and get you connected with another agent. I have waitlisted seats and they sent an email to me to call them to reserve the seats or else lose them.

  5. I was just on my delayed Delta flights two weeks ago. At 30 minutes past departure the flight attendants made announcements that the Delta app had updated booking information. Sure enough dozens of people on the full 737 including me checked their connections and rebooked When self-service tools are used and they work there is no need to talk to anybody

  6. I had a problem from MIA to DCA yesterday (flight cancelled, rebooked for Tuesday). I was able to find seats and rebook for yesterday with a connection in Key West.

    That was an adventure!

  7. @Tim Dunn

    Operative words

    “….are used…and work….”….and experience tells me the former is #1

  8. ??? puzzled, as I called Delta this morning around 9am eastern and was connected in 15 mins. That said, the number shared will def come in use!

  9. dark star,
    The full 737-800 was already boarded when the captain announced the mechanical problem. At the 30 minute mark w/ the flight attendants announcement, the vast majority of people that I could see picked up their cell phones w/ the Delta app and had their updated connection information.
    My point is that the app works for the vast majority of connection problems and that is generally true for AA and UA as well.
    When people talk about long hold times, you have to ask who the majority of customers are that are on hold. Given that the weekend was Florida related, I would bet that the majority of people were leisure travelers that were less adept at handling delays. Neither Delta or any other airline is going to keep large numbers of staff to support leisure travelers during irregular operations. There were long lines at AA’s Miami hub but there are no stories of people still stuck there.
    Everyone picks up the phone but that is probably not even necessary.
    And, as noted above, DL’s wait times are not unreasonable today.

    There will be massive meltdowns of airline operations – but let’s also keep in mind that 1/3 of Spirit and JetBlue flights didn’t even operate yesterday; no other airline was anywhere near that bad. When flights operate reasonably close to on-time as they did yesterday for most other airlines, people get where they need to be.

    And the simple reason why United had minimal impact this weekend is because they are insignificant to Florida, smaller than every other large jet airline except for Alaska. Alaska had and still has an elevated number of cancellations purportedly due to pilot shortages.

  10. The wait times all around are horrible, even for the elite lines. I have used AA’s ‘call back’ service and 3 out of 3 times they have called on the scheduled hour. Unfortunately, it’s still hours from when one wants the answer!

  11. mbpea,
    as much as Gary wants to harp on airline hold times and you might be frustrated by them, they simply don’t matter.
    Delta ended 2021 with the lowest consumer complaint ratio of the big jet airlines, just ahead of Southwest.
    Delta’s rate was 3X better than American, 4X better than United, 5X better than JetBlue and 10X better than Spirit.
    The DOT tracks WHY airline passengers complain and the number one reason is flight problems.

    Delta had the best on-time for any mainland airline (behind Hawaiian) with an on-time percentage for the year 6 points better than American, 9 points better than United, 11 points better than Southwest and 16 points better than JetBlue.

    Delta also had the lowest rate of cancellations of any mainland airline.

    Getting customers to their destinations as close to on-time is the best way to keep people happy.

    Fixating on the few times when call hold times are lengthy means nothing to the vast majority of customers.

  12. Is there such a workaround for AA? I am Exp Platinum level and still waited 5+ hrs

  13. All the mergers and acquistions come home to roost. Then throw in do-it-yourself service. Really sad.

  14. Only 41 hours to reach an agent?
    In other great Delta news they will be doubling or tripling the cost of revenue tickets and award redemptions to ease the expense of adding and training new agents

  15. Gary, great tip!

    Does the OSO number still work for American? (I think that was the term for the group hanging irrops)

  16. Lol @ the “it’s the leisure fliers” who are the problem. And it’s because they don’t know how to use “the app”.

    Wonderful that some have never been the beneficiary of trying to get something straightened out using the app, the website, etc, only to have both of them state you have to call a representative….then you sit on hold for hours…IF you are lucky.

    Twitter was great when they supported it but now that avenue is gone.

    And another lol at the call if it’s within 48 hours…except I got the same crap responses.

    Sorry but not everything can be done in “the app”.

  17. Patti,
    I didn’t say that everything can be done via an app but the vast majority of the delays can be handled that way. Delta like some other airlines have also long provided online tools for rebooking as well as allowing customers to scan their boarding pass at any unused boarding position to generate a new itinerary.
    I use full service tools in multiple arenas of my life but I also use self-service tools and they make everything so much easier – from the doctor’s office to online bill pay services etc.

    I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news but leisure travelers that don’t or won’t use self-service tools are the ones that will wait the longest when airline operations go south and I am not talking about Florida.

  18. Tim,

    You should share that info with Delta because our last 2 flights with them couldn’t be handled via the app or the website.

    Both kept telling us to talk to a rep. Hours on hold to the point I was ready to drive to the airport and grab the first Delta rep I could find.

    These weren’t award tickets or companion tickets but full first class tickets. Frustrating. But I finally used their talk to a rep option on line and got it handled. Twitter was a blessing back in the day.

    I also had no choice. They moved our flight from departing well after our international flight landed to 3 hours BEFORE our plane landed. And no later options, so we quickly had to book an overnight stay at JFK. $$$ AND frustration.

  19. Patti,
    thanks for giving some insight into the type of bookings that their automation couldn’t handle.
    I didn’t say that it could handle everything but I have seen plenty of customers on the big 3 be able to handle their rebooking through the app or the airline’s website. I am not sure why yours fell out.

    My point is that there are plenty of people that are in the phone and agent lines that do not need to be there if they used self-service tools.

  20. Thankfully there are several credit cards that offer trip interruption benefits (like hotel/taxi/food/toiletries), so if you do have to overnight due to a delay, you can get reimbursed.

  21. First time commenter here, just want to point out that I had to change a DL flight within 24 hours of departure last month due to weather and their text service was amazing. Yes, I had to wait an hour, but less than the phone hold times and no miscommunications regarding info. Agent seemed to be able to do the same things as the phone agents would be able to.

  22. I had a similar experience to Patti’s during the previous AA meltdown in late January: a round-trip first class ticket on AA with the outbound leg consisting of two flights with a connection in Chicago. The first flight was supposed to leave at 5:30 AM; at 5 PM the prior night American Airlines emailed me to let me know the flight was cancelled. Wait times to speak to a rep exceeded 11 hours, and the app allowed me to reschedule the first flight but not the second, so all that did was have me misconnecting in ORD. The website was useless; it just told me that no changes could be made online and that I had to speak with a rep. I finally ended up canceling the ticket and booking flights with Southwest; thank God they still had seats available, or I would have been late for my medical conference. Now I am stuck with a flight credit I am going to find hard to use – and more to the point, a lot of travelers don’t have a spare $1,000 free to do an emergency rebooking on a different airline.

    Stop blaming “inexperienced leisure travelers” for this. It’s an airline issue. No one, regardless of their status, should have to wait 11+ hours to rebook a flight!

  23. Thanks for the Delta number, but what about Jet Blue? Our flight on Sunday from LGA to PBI was cancelled about 5 hours before takeoff with no notification from Jet Blue whatsoever. I found out only because I was getting my boarding passes through the app when I got a message on the screen that said CANCELLED. Called JetBlue to no avail — after hearing their revolving “wait” message for about 10 minutes, the message changed to “call back later” and disconnected — twice! Turned out all flights from NYC to south Florida on ALL airlines on Sunday afternoon/evening were either cancelled or full and we finally had AmEx book us in economy+ middle seats (ugh!) on United for Monday afternoon. Any workaround for this to have reached an airline sooner?

  24. Let’s be careful who we share this secret with. If everyone learns about it, it’ll defeat the ability to get thru!

    I could handle being on hold (sometimes) if I knew I’d actually get thru and didn’t have to listen to repeated messages thanking me for my patience. What irritates me is when you don’t even get the opportunity to hold. (British Airways).

  25. Imagine how senior citizens feel – frustrated to the point of never flying again, even if they have the apps. And they got lots of money to spend traveling. It’s looking good to book a cruise from a port they can drive to, or perhaps take a train (I ran into someone who did that)

  26. Does anyone else miss Freebird–the insurance one could buy for whenever a flight was significantly delayed or cancelled that would buy a walk-up flight for another carrier?

    I am wondering if there are any companies that currently offer that type of service.

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