Delta: Your Estimated Wait Time For An Agent Is 704 Minutes

Delta’s once-lauded operational reliability has become more like other airlines. They earned a revenue premium for their reliability and that is now in question. People earned SkyMiles despite their lower value than competitor currencies thanks to the halo of the Delta brand, and that too appears to be a question mark going forward. Perhaps Delta can turn things around, though having shed 31% of employees during the pandemic and touted their ‘juniority’ (cheaper labor) it’s just as plausible they’ve forgotten how to run an airline as well as they used to.

One area where Delta has especially suffered throughout the pandemic – other airlines have performed poorly but Delta has been worse – is in helping customers when things go wrong. Seven hour telephone hold times are not uncommon. A year ago even elite frequent flyers could be informed of 41 hour hold times. The debacle made it into a Delta earnings call with CEO Ed Bastian saying if this happens to a customer to email him.

Some people suggest messaging Delta rather than calling but that can be just as futile, as one passenger who took to social media explained after being told of a more than 11 hour wait time to connect with an agent.

If you have travel disruptions with Delta, and your trip is inside of 48 hours, bookmark this number: 1-855-548-2505. It’s often possible to get through to an agent for imminent travel help in a matter of minutes.

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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Comments

  1. It’s the great customer service lie: we are experiencing higher than normal call volume. All companies do it.

  2. @ Gary — I called the Delta Diamond line twice this weekend, and my wait time was zero minutes both times.

  3. . . . with a dysfunctional Delta website, to boot. I called my HEALTH INSURANCE company yesterday, was put on hold for ten minutes by the system, and then I was disconnected. It’s the Great Customer Service Apocalypse.

  4. Ferdinand, speaking of websites, have you noticed that the reservation side of Delta, Virgin, Air France, and KLM all have the same look-and-feel? Even the error codes and their positioning on the web page are the same.

  5. They should change the measure of wait time to weeks, “your hold time is less than 1 week”.

  6. At least Delta hasn’t devalued their phone lines – you get more Skyminutes per call now than ever before.

  7. It amazes me that most companies have not figured out that customer interaction IS a top priority. If a customer can’t reach you or you are difficult to do business with, the customer can not spend their money with you. I want to think Delta is smarter than others and understands this, but this is not to be. 🙁

  8. Delta is in discussion to invest in phone support starting Monday
    Unfortunately to fund this endeavor effective immediately all Skymiles awards
    will double and triple in customer redemption amounts in miles
    Call hold times will be a maximum of 5 hours at all times

  9. It’s nice to be wanted.
    The simple fact is that anecdotal data means nothing even on a statistic such as how long YOUR individual flight is delayed.
    Call hold times are not measured by anyone on an aggregate basis and while anecdotal data might produce clicks in an article, neither the US DOT cares enough about it to require disclosure – if it is even possible to require companies to disclose call hold times.

    Unlike on-time and cancellations, everyone on the delayed or cancelled flight is affected equally but that is not true with call hold times. The vast majority of customers do not need to contact an airline by phone and can use self-service tools.

    For the record, I do not call any service provider by phone. If they don’t offer me self-service tools, they can send a paper bill and communication and we’ll do it the old fashioned way.

  10. Maybe Mr. Dunn could implement this solution: If you have a SkyMiles account, when you call it you enter your account number, and start earning free miles as follows:

    1-5 minutes: 100 miles per minute
    6-30 minutes: 500 miles per every minute
    30 – 60 mintes: 1000 miles per every minute
    1-2 hours: 5000 miles per every minute between 60 and 120
    2-3 hours: etc – suggest your own compensation

  11. Your call is very important to us. Please hold until it is no longer important to you.

  12. jsm,
    I would presume that you would suggest that compensation – whether loyalty points or something else – be given whenever customer service failures occur.
    I have no idea what Delta is doing with their May delays but they have offered Skymiles to passengers after large systemic delays or cancellations occurred which were in part due to their fault.
    You need only look at the DOT’s consumer complaint statistics to see that Delta and Southwest consistently rank much higher at resolving consumer complaints than other carriers.

    and, again, we still honestly have no idea how big of an issue call hold delays actually are. Anecdotal evidence doesn’t tell us anything about the overall scope of the problem and many customers simply don’t need to talk to a phone agent even in irregular operations.

    If compensation should be given out for customer service failures, then call hold delays will result in a much smaller amount of compensation than other types of service failures.

  13. I hate to say it, but in the last 25 years or so business management everywhere has decided that their veteran workers with all their deep knowledge and experience (read “seniority”) were “too expensive to keep” and went after them to retire. Or worse, find ways of firing them and/or replacing them with part time no benefits employees. Covid gave many of those employees a graceful way out.
    So now, companies all over water belatedly discovering that “Surprise, surprise!” those employees were worth a lot more to the companies that they gave them credit for. Whelp.

  14. All companies do it. I think Delta is following Verizon Wirless customer service model as in non-existent. Same loop, same message. American business is for s**t.

  15. Hmm, I called the regular CS line a couple days ago on weekday morning. The wait time was less than 10 minutes…more click bait!

  16. I think my two favorite customer service phone line messages are: “we are experiencing higher than normal call volumes,” and “our options have recently changed.” Neither are ever true, but speak to a company that cannot be bothered to actively managed their telephone support.

  17. When listening to this on-going b. s. About Delta having lost customer responsiveness, I am always reminded of the legendary Eddie Carlsen of SAS. He once said that if you treat customers as if they weren’t important, try doing without them for 30 days.

  18. Tim, I have to break something to you. Every call center knows at any given time how long their hold time is and has software that tracks it historically and projects it in the future. I have call center clients who can project out 2 years how much call volume they can expect based on historical data. Does volume change with customer volume? Of course, but the software is programmable to take into account changes by percentage or by fixed amount. If Delta can’t hire enough people to handle their projected call volumes 3-6 months out, they have management issues.

  19. Frank,
    I am well aware of how call center technology works.
    The point is that Gary provided an anecdotal data point that has been countered by multiple people who have said based on their OWN experience that they have received normal, relatively short hold times, if any at all.
    Anecdotal means it is a single data point that means nothing in terms of understanding an overall trend.
    I have never said that Delta didn’t have longer hold times – at periods – but that is clearly not the norm or other people couldn’t be sharing about their relatively short hold times.

    and, yes, all call center operators have data on their hold times but they arent’ required to and don’t share it externally – good, bad or indifferent.

    There is public data on the measurable parts of airline performance that is tracked and reported to private companies as well as the DOT – including on-time, cancellation rates, customer complaint ratios, lost bag ratios, and oversales – but Gary has NEVER published any of that data – QUITE UNLIKE some of the very sites he links to which do objective analyses of airline performance.

    Other people are right. This story just like a person being locked up by American or thrown off a plane because of attire (any number of airlines) is nothing but anecdotal click bait and has nothing to do.

    and then you have to consider that nearly every other blogger besides Gary devotes more time to pushing credit cards, doing trip reviews, or analyzing airline news and data than Gary does.

  20. Delta management must be terminally stupid. Obviously they’re not hiring qualified people and the newbies are taking 3x longer to unscrew things. This should not be news to Delta. Who would book an airline who won’t give any customer service? Only those of us with existing reservations or future flight credits need customer service. READ: those people that have already paid Delta. We can’t get help unless we have status at Delta. The solution is ridiculously simple; it’s something Delta already knows how to do. If you can’t fix my issue via chat, CALL ME BACK, you morons. The computer knows how to do this. Make an appointment to unscrew my problem. I don’t care how long it takes, as long as I don’t have to deal with an idiot via message or listen to endless noise pollution on my speaker phone. Delta management must have a death wish. Is it so difficult to understand that I might spend even MORE if I were allowed to use my credits that are screwed up somehow and don’t appear in my SkyMiles a/c? Once I get my $4K in CRs rebooked, it will take some effort on Delta’s part to ever want to do business with them again. What a damn shame.

  21. Hi huey judy,

    As many people have quipped since the merger, Northwest got great employees. Delta unfortunately got Northwest’s management.

  22. In Delta hubs, like Atlanta and Salt Lake City, you really have no choice but to fly Delta, and Delta takes advantage of that. In some other markets, Delta is offering the only nonstops. As for everywhere else, unless , I have no idea why anyone would fly Delta. Skymiles is worthless. Skybonus is worthless. Delta is almost never the cheapest. The website doesn’t seem to work properly for anything other than booking. Upgrades are extremely rare. Incidental charges, like seat selection, are astronomically expensive. The customer service is, as the comments indicate, beyond-belief bad. Other than planes falling out of the sky, what could Delta possibly do to alienate its customers further?

  23. That’s America’s highest rated carrier. Others are far worse.

    The US has really gone down the tubes. It used to be a country to look up to, lately just one to get away from if you can (atrocious COVID handling, random mass shootings, bad airlines, servers that rely on handouts (“tips”) from diners to live, culture wars/tribalism, and so on).

  24. All call centers can be like this. Called Disney and 20 minutes after they opened “all their operators were busy helping others”. And it would be a 25 minute wait.

  25. Ok here’s anecdotal data for Tim. I had Delta have a major glitch on their end with an upcoming flight to SEA. I needed to change flights and the system wouldn’t let me do it in 2 minutes online so I had to contact customer service. At 8pm.

    I was given an estimated wait time of 2.5 hours. They do not have the option of letting them call you back. So I held. In the meantime I tried texting the Delta support team. I got an immediate reply but then was routed to someone else and asked to hold

    Fast forward 3.5 hours later I’m still on hold. Finally someone picks up. It took this representative over 50 minutes to handle my issue. During the course of this, the online team finally replied to me and I told them at this point I didn’t need their help since someone was helping me on the phone.

    Was the agent kind and incredibly helpful? Yes. She did very good damage control for Delta by being top notch. Have I ever had to wait on the phone this long with United or American personally, ever? In my OWN anecdotal experience, no.

    But last September I had an issue with Delta where I contacted their online team while still at the airport in RNO. over six hours later just as I was getting my baggage I get a reply.

    So in my OWN anecdotal experience, Delta has insanely unreasonable wait times. And this is also the experience of several friends of mine who are Delta regulars. Even if they love Delta they bemoan how awful these wait times are.

    I literally could have flown to Seattle faster than it took to resolve that issue over the phone. Think about that.

    They need to fix this because it isn’t some one-off anomaly. This has been plaguing Delta for some time now.

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