Airline Call Center Agents Rebelling At Long Hold Times, Mandatory Overtime

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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, 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. 48 hours of 2 weeks? What am I missing.

    Talk about sour grapes. 4-8 hour hold times is unacceptable from passengers. Yes they need to staff up, but that’s going to happen over night.

  2. This airline should be forced to bankrupt. Period. Operational centric piece of shit! It’s clients and staff can go eat crap apparently. Only their bottom line counts

  3. Remember when the airlines and hotels took billions of dollars to fund their payroll…..

    Where did all those people go?

  4. Delta as bad. They changed one flight to be taking off as my other plane was landing.

    7 hours on hold (after being told my wait time was 90 minutes), no callback feature offered.

    No twitter,no Facebook messenger options. Finally at 5 hours I was able to get a rep on their Delta message feature.

    Meanwhile I listened to a thousand, Use the App to change your flight as,. I tried to use the App that to me they couldn’t change, I had to call in.

    THIS is on the cheap ass airlines who are trying to keep every penny they get, while blaming it on an increase in customers.

  5. That’s something “new and improved ” self imposed mando and then they can mando OT another round of hours ON TOP of that same day. Basically at anytime you never know when you’re going to go home.

    For a few years now they’ve had mandatory OT holding people captive 12 hour not including that unpaid lunch. I had a mini stroke after being there 2 pm thru 0430am on the 3rd mando that week.
    My neurologist told me I had a choice, life or work. I loved what I did for CK but I couldn’t survive on 4 to 5 hrs sleep and then repeated 12 to 15hr days any longer. I left 2 years ago and sadly it’s gotten even worse. As a single mom I felt like my teens raised themselves those last 5 yrs…and looking back its soul crushing.

    If you have agents who truly love their job and their customers, why crush them with an inhumane work environment?

    I grieve for all the times my kids never knew when they’d see me. During storms I slept there for 3 to 4 days willingly because I wanted to help in crisis. But they need to stop manufacturing their own crisis over and over… and making the employees pay with every waking minute.

    If there was a day off and you made the mistake of answering your phone..well then you’re reporting for duty for mandatory 12 hours on your day off, no exceptions.

    They lost hundreds of agents 2 years ago, many because we couldn’t risk our health with repetitive mando or constantly have no guaranteed time at home with loved ones…this was all before covid. Maybe if they hadn’t crushed their staffing purposely with mando OT to fix their self perceived overstaffing(again before covid), they wouldn’t be in the state they’re in now. How in hell could they be overstaffed and yet mando everytime a drop of rain fell in DFW? Mando has been a tool used for every purpose other than safely running an operation. Now that they’ve driven away so many, the irony is they actually need the staffing they tried to rid themselves of for so long.

  6. I guess the excuses for lack of pilots-long retraining, “unprecedented” weather-won’t work here for AA. You have to hat tip the lobbyists who got them all that bailout money with apparently no performance standards. Call the spin doctors.

    On the employee side, I get that some have other obligations, child care, etc., and those issues are very real. But whining about a 10 hour day or 48 hour week? Please.

  7. Let’s do some back of the napkin math. If an average call (once connected) takes 10 minutes, then 3300 agents times 48 hours times 6 calls per hour is just about a million calls.

    AA’s staffing problems aren’t the agents fault. Clearly AA needs to staff up for the future, but training takes time, so that doesn’t help the immediate crisis. So when the 3300 agents say they don’t want to work the extra hours, they’re saying that instead a *million* people should continue to have 6 hour hold times.

    What AA should do, of course, is use a carrot and not a stick. Instead of penalties for those who don’t work extra, how about bonuses for those who do? Put some of those billions of dollars of taxpayer money to better use…

  8. @Sam, see my post above. This isn’t something new as far as a 48hr week for 2 weeks. This is a new self mando and its adding to the MANDATORY 12hrs/shift has been going on for years… to the point that they even had a rep drop dead while working. We lost 5 people in a few months time. No one knows what was mando related and what wasn’t but it’s clearly a sign there’s NO work life balance.

    So this is way more than whining over suddenly having to work 48 hrs for 2 weeks. Plus they can add mando ot on top of those 48 hours.

  9. All airlines are going through this , They have never dealt with or had to come out of a global pandemic !!!

  10. @Tim AA was mando’ing to war with the union and force out staff well BEFORE covid.

  11. They should distribute condoms. The athletes will have sex.

    It seems the very 100 percent deadly HIV isn’t an issue but covid is?

    Remember hiv is still classified as a pandemic.

  12. So the call center person seems to believe that during slavery, slaves had second jobs, school commitments, day care issues, etc, yet were forced to work an extra 2 hours a day at their standard pay, with possible penalties including maybe termination. And apparently that slaves were free to quit their jobs and seek other employment (or consult labor lawyers).

    It bugs me no end when our comfortable society makes ridiculous comparisons to slavery or other crimes against humanity, and such a comparison makes it impossible for me to take this person’s complaint seriously.

  13. I certainly think the airlines aren’t being held accountable for their incompetence. As to the employees, refuse the overtime and start looking for a new job. If they are short staffed already are they really going to fire people now? And with the current job market you may be able to get a better job although it may not be home based.

    The US over the last few years has positioned itself to be a low end country with numerous “shortages”, an artificially high stock market and a huge housing bubble. I am thankful I don’t have any kids because the future here isn’t going to be good.

  14. Unilaterally changing the terms of employment is wrong, especially when trying to solve a problem of the employer’s own making. AA clearly disagrees with “Poor planning on your part does not necessitate an emergency on mine.”

  15. @Patti – Having similar experiences with Delta. Call-back feature offered only sometimes when calling Delta. Waited 8+ hours for a call-back last week. Absolutely am not looking forward to flying with them later this week. I can’t even imagine being forced to miss a flight due to cancellation or a delayed flight, and spending another 8 hours trying to get someone at Delta to help out.

  16. Some things do not make sense. You can not by volunteer to work overtime, if you are working you have to be paid, and if you work over 40 hours you have to be paid overtime. I do not believe a large public company will refuse to comply with the law.

  17. Doug Parker, is a idiot. He got rid of Legacy AA employee’s, and inserted his AW buddies. He couldn’t run American when they were making money. Now…, he can’t even run it when it isn’t. DUI/Doug…. the Titanic is going down !! American is not the same airline.

  18. Well, no wonder airline agents are so useless; they’re brain-dead. At a time like this, working an extra 4 hours a week with commensurate compensation is going to make them flip their lids? The height of self-absorption. Grow up guys, we have a travel crisis happening, had you noticed?

  19. HIV is and will always be a problem. There is also other STDs that can also be transmitted. Risk of Covid will not prevent a hook up but a condom will prevent HIV plus more. The IOC is not the Church, they can not just wish it away.

    The risk of HIV is highest among 16-20 yr old males. These Untouchables feel that they are immune since only Gays get aids

  20. @harris, they have a union. The union filed a grievance over the mandatory OT… and they ended up agreeing to more mando OT for workers.

  21. These comments are hilarious for those that don’t know the full story and what is happening in American Airlines Reservations world. We hope the full story makes it out as well.

    When we accepted to work here we did so as a 40 hour work week. We did this w/the understanding that we could be given additional hours as mandatory overtime occasionally (when extreme weather occurs or “unusual events”). Pre-2020 and 2021 that would occasionally be a handful of times per calendar year. Welcome to 2021, the year of post-Covid travel problems that AA didn’t plan for. Since Feb 2021, we have collectively worked 34 days of mandatory overtime. That’s not counting this new “trial” the company has put in place for the next 2 weeks. That’s more than one month we’ve worked against our will (not voluntary overtime), time we can’t get back with our families, our children, events we’ve missed, Proms, Graduations, births, etc. We cannot plan our daily lives because we have no balance. At any moment’s notice we can be told to work an additional 4 hours after your shift.

    This isn’t a new problem for us in Reservations. We’ve just now reached the point of breakdown and disgust with the company and our Union for not fighting for us. We are not robots. We are not exempt from mental exhaustion. We deserve to have work life balance as much as the next employee, whether it’s Delta or United or Southwest. For those of you commenting saying just quit…it’s not that easy and you know it. When reps have reached a level of seniority and years served they can’t just quit and go find an equal paying job. That’s how AA catches us. They know we can’t all just walk out and leave them hanging. So we are stuck.

    We have no idea on any given day if we are going to work our regular 8 hour shift or be told to work a 12 hour one. They give us 61 minutes notice before the end of our shift to stay an additional 4. We have children to pick up from school. We don’t have nannies and babysitters on call to go do that. Then, on top of that, we usually get 10-12 hours on our actual day(s) off. Working sometimes 7-10 days in a row, talking for 8-12 hours all day, every day. That’s not normal and everyone here can agree with that.

    We can’t fix the understaffing quickly. AA has begun hiring and training, but that’s not a quick process. They’ve even brought back reps that retired as temp employees to help. In the meantime, the rest of us would like to just work our 40 hours and volunteer to help with overtime when our life schedules allow. That’s all. We shouldn’t be “on call” for the airlines as reservations phone reps.

    Thanks Gary for sharing the story and we hope more comes to light soon.

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