Delta Has Killed The Best Workaround For Long Phone Hold Times. Here’s Another.

Delta has rolled out a new phone system, and it’s no longer easy to avoid. Faced with hour long hold times, Delta has told customers their best bet it to email the CEO. Good luck with that.

For years my favorite workaround was to dial Singapore reservations, using an internet calling app to avoid high rates. You’d get an English-speaking agent, and the hold times wouldn’t be bad at all most of the time. When U.S. flights were melting down, people call U.S. reservations – not foreign call centers.

Unfortunately you no longer get routed into a separate phone queue by ringing up Singapore. That is no longer a ‘trick’ to avoid the long hold times of the U.S. phone number for Delta.

The next-best workaround for Delta is to dial 1-855-548-2505 when you have travel within the next 48 hours. This is the number that’s printed on the airline’s red “Need Help?” cards and on their “Need Help?” signs at the airport. As I say they’ll only assist with travel needs in the upcoming 48 hors, but it frequently circumvents the waits.

For American Airlines I still like the Australia and UK reservations lines when US call center volume is off the charts, and twitter direct message when I’m unable to call (for instance, when I’m in the air).

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. Did they eliminate the Singapore call center?

    For almost a year when you would call Marriott’s Ambassador number you would get a China or Ireland customer service call center because US agents were laid off, reduced or fired. You still get the foreign customer service agents if you call at random times in the middle of the night or early morning hours.

    I’ve never gotten a foreign customer service agent from Delta.

  2. What do you mean by “Unfortunately you no longer get routed into a separate phone queue by ringing up Singapore.”

    Does that mean that callers from Singapore are placed in the same queue as callers from the US? Does that mean that the Singaporean agents and US agents serve the same pool of customers? If so, does that imply that all English-speaking callers from around the world are served by the same set of agents from around the world?

    Some more detail here would be helpful!

  3. Hey Gary,
    Did you not contact your travel agent, who usually answers on the first ring…. There are still plenty of travel agents in the USA who would love to take care of you 24/7. No long lines at the airport or hold times on phones to contend with!! Without your travel agent, you’re on your own!

  4. I don’t mind long hold times so long as all they play while you are on hold is bland music. I can leave the phone on speakerphone and sit at my desk and do work.

    What I hate is when they have a voice – either with institutional adverts or “please wait we will be with you as soon as possible.” That makes it impossible for me to leave the phone on speaker and concentrate on other work.

  5. Delta PM here – yesterday when I called, I didn’t get the “we can call you back when it’s your turn, you will not lose your place in line” message that I normally receive. Anyone else notice this? My only option was to wait for the estimated wait time of “11 hours and 1 minute”. I HUCA’d and got the same thing.

  6. @Echo — I was also surprised by the absence of the call back feature when I called late on 1 Jan. Wait time was 2 hours and got disconnected once. Ended up using the text message feature from the Contact Us page of the app/site. Wait time was 61 minutes. Response to texts was slow, but still faster than waiting on hold.

  7. I surely hope that Delta’s ‘leave your number and we’ll call you back’ system has not disappeared. That was a piece of cake. I don’t mind a bit of hold time, maybe half an hour … but I’m with Robert … if I can’t put the phone on speaker and continue working, I can’t use the system with the constant voice interruptions. Just play the music guys, and shut up the voice, OK? Better yet, all airlines should set up the “we’ll call you back in approximately ** hours” which is a win/win for everyone. Chat is certainly a choice, but I had an hour’s chat with a United rep a month ago to change an itinerary that the website wouldn’t deal with. I knew exactly what I wanted, I laid out the whole thing in chat, and it should have taken 5-minutes to fix the problem. So either they are putting low-level reps on the chat line, or the reps have to deal with several customers at once.

  8. @ HoKo: The iMessage chat is available in the Delta iPhone app. Click on the menu icon at the bottom right corner and scroll all the way to the bottom. There’s a link for “Message Us” that will open the Delta chat in the iMessage app.

  9. Knock on wood I’ve not had these problems. AA I wait for a the call back even it’s half a day. Delta text messaging has always been so fast.

  10. That might hurt their business and they might need an affiliate program in order to recoup lost profits from alleged long phone hold times. Your thoughts on this?

  11. Does this work for Flying Blue awards? You can’t cancel or change those awards online and have to call in but having a similar issue where I can’t get thru. Does anyone know any workarounds? My flight is tomorrow and I need to cancel it.

  12. There was an even better secret workaround that very few people knew about. A supervisor told me about it once but sadly with Delta’s new terrible phone system it’s gone. Calling the Disability Line (404)209-3434. I could call that number anytime day or night, press 2 and within 30 seconds a supervisor would answer to help. They really didn’t care if you didn’t have a disability issue if you explained how long the hold times had been. But many never even asked or brought it up. I used it on and off in 2020 and 2021 and it was awesome.

    I never mentioned it to anyone because I didn’t want it to ruin it but unfortunately the new phone system got rid of that too. What I mean is you can still call the number and press 2 but you literally wait an hour or more. I tried it 3 times since the new phone system and it’s been 55 minutes+ every time.

  13. I can tell some haven’t traveled in a while. That call back feature has been gone for over 8 months that I can remember, probably more.

    So is their Twitter customer service feature.

    Now your only choice is sitting on hold, my current record is 8 hours, or using their message feature, my current record there is 4 hours.

    I especially loved the use your app to make changes, then the app tells me I have to talk to a rep to make changes.

    May just be quicker for me to drive to the airport and ask for help instead.

  14. Worst of all is BA. I waited over four days for a response to a Twitter message, then the reply told me to click on a web link. Unfortunately, the rep had not read my message which said that the web link led to a page that did not deal with my very specific application for compensation on a flight that was delayed for 25 hours

  15. My understanding is that Delta throttles back the call-back system entirely when they’re overwhelmed. About 10 days ago, I was offered a callback when I put in my wife’s elite SM number after not being offered it at all under my own loser status, at which point I HUCAed as my wife.

  16. After my flights were cancelled on 1/2, I tried to call Delta and there was a 3+ hr wait to talk to a person. I opted for the text chat option with about a 90 min.wait. The responses were very slow. It was extremely frustrating. I was on the chat until 2am when I finally gave up and went to bed. Wasn’t it a brilliant to fire employees who resisted a vaccine, going into holiday travel season. Stupid!

  17. Hey Elaine,
    Delta is one of the few airlines that did NOT have a vax mandate – and 90% plus (perhaps now near 95%) vaccinated.
    United had a vax mandate and fired people but I’m not sure how many of them were res agents.

    There are plenty of reasons to be frustrated w/ slow call times but vax mandates are not very likely to be the reason.

    btw, there was a sign at the pharmacy I went to today stating that they were understaffed and people needed to be patient. (of course w/ a smiling face). Where is the chat forum for me to complain about short-staffing at the pharmacy, restaurant, grocery store, doctor’s office….

    Do people not realize that there are massive staffing shortages in the US that are directly tied to government aid last summer followed by covid outbreaks just as airlines hired tens of thousands of new employees?

    oh, and you do realize that there has been winter weather in various parts of the US for nearly all of the holiday travel period… because winter weather happens in WINTER which is right when a bunch of people want to travel!

    Even with government money, every US airline has lost billions of dollars over the past 2 years.

    I want the world back the way it used to be too but I’m not sure that airlines can be blamed as much as the entire economic situation the US is in.

  18. The airlines are to blame for trying to kill travel agents. With a travel agent you wouldn’t need to wait this long.

  19. As Bob Robar mentions, travel agents are an option. Delta, UA, and most airlines have a separate number for them to dial. When I’m stranded, I call Amex Travel, explain the situation, and ask them to come up with options. They call the airline’s travel agent number with minimal hold time, conference me in, and we typically get a solution pretty quickly. Don’t even need to have booked the ticket using an Amex card or through Amex Travel, just need to hold an Amex.

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