Delta’s Top Frequent Flyers Have To Wait Up To 41 Hours To Get Phone Calls Answered

I recently wrote about telephone hold times to speak to an agent at Avianca’s LifeMiles program of up to 8.5 hours.

Not to be outdone devaluing the SkyMiles program, it appears that Delta’s top elite frequent flyers have been waiting on hold up to 41 hours to get their phone calls answered. Delta offers to call you back if you don’t want to wait on hold, but customers who wait 6 or more hours to get a call back report still waiting more than half an hour on hold when the airline calls them back.

For a decade or more I’ve recommended calling an airline’s international reservations lines when you can’t get through to an agent in the U.S. For Delta I’ve suggested ringing their Singapore number. Those agents don’t usually get backed up the same way U.S. agents do. Several folks recently have reported even that hasn’t gotten them through to help quickly.

When flights cancel, customers can’t get help – even top tier elite customers. When a program member finds confirmable upgrade space, that space is gone by the time they get through to an agent to process it. Delta will eventually lose business from loyal customers because of this, but probably isn’t seeing it in the data yet because customers can’t even get through to cancel their bookings.

Sometimes customers get lucky and the hold time on the Delta Diamond line is ‘only’ an hour and a half. One customer has observed a simple rubric to predict your hold times with Delta:

  • Diamond and Platinum members: your hold time will be the length of your flight
  • Gold and Silver members: your hold time will be how long it would take for you to drive to your destination
  • Non-elite customers: My God have mercy on your soul.

It’s frequently faster for a Delta customer without elite status to drive to the airport and wait in line at a ticket counter for help than it is to call customer service. And this isn’t just a temporary phenomenon because of a weather event or other flight disruption. This has been going on for the last two months.

Delta’s flight operation melted down over Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Now it looks like the solution is to prevent customers from even contacting the airline, then they can’t be cancelled on.

The airline has been telling customers that they’re working to hire call center agents (generally pays about $15 per hour) and to improve their website and mobile app so that more things can be handled self-service and customers won’t have to call.

Airport contractors are having trouble hiring people to push wheelchairs because of low wages, temporarily increased unemployment, and kids doing Zoom School in parts of the country so working means having to hire childcare.

However that doesn’t seem to be the issue here because call centers at other airlines and hotels aren’t nearly this bad. Non-elite customers have always had to wait to speak to someone, and last week I had to spend about 20 minutes waiting for a United Airlines agent (I do not have United Premier status). Delta’s situation seems truly unique, and uniquely awful. They need to fix this, fast.

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. Their chat queue are generally not so backed up. You can usually get through in about 15 minutes as a GM and the agents are well-trained and informed.

  2. I recall this was an issue last summer as well. DL got great coverage for seat blocking (and kudos to them for doing that), but in other ways they seem to have handled so many aspects of operating during a pandemic terribly- and it’s been over a year now so there’s really no excuse at this point.

  3. I have sent Delta emails and emails about this and other service issues this past year to no avail. They have taken months to respond to my emails. I hold Diamond at DL and this year have moved all of my revenue tickets to AA where I earned Executive Platinum this year. I have flown DL this year a few times but all flights on miles tickets. Between the extremely long wait times and lack of any service onboard, unless you drink beer or wine, I refuse to give them any money- not to mention I had to go through the DOT to get my money back for a cancelled ticket last Spring. I have been flying DL for 21 years and am MIA based which means I have an AA hub in my backyard yet have not minded doing flights with stops in the past to stay with DL for their past good service. I have not stopped flying each week during the pandemic and have to agree DL’s service has been the worst of all 3 major carriers. I also have Platinum status with UA. This weekend I flew UA in F from EWR to MIA and was offered a hot sandwich. DL gave me a snack box with junk food as well as beer, wine or water in DL1 from JFK to LAX last month. What more is there to say?

  4. As a Diamond Medallion for years, I was shocked the first time this happened to me. I couldn’t believe I was calling the “Diamond” line, so when I finally got through, they confirmed that indeed it was the “Diamond” line, and others were waiting even longer. Of late, my wait times, which I convert to call back times have been anywhere from 7 minutes to 90 minutes. On one call back, they did call back, but I was on hold again for 7 more minutes before the agent came on. Yes, DL needs to improve on this.

  5. Me too-and the crews wearing political buttons and berating people is amazing-

  6. Maybe Delta should start saying customers matter or telephone callers matter, not engaging in BLM politics. For a year now (unless I call at 11 pm or 5 am), my waits have been anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours. I have diamond medallion status. Twitter direct messages aren’t monitored anymore by Delta and the secure messaging system is just a robot. Oddly, when I’ve received responses in under 24 hours when I’ve emailed a couple of complaints to customer care.

  7. Waiting this long for customer service is unacceptable. I understand their would be some wait time involved for irregular operations, but for lord sake hire more CS people to minimize the impact.
    I stopped doing business with companies with weak or inadequate CS, unfortunately this is wide spread. Companies need to upgrade their CS, we are all tired of spending so much time waiting to get things done!

  8. With respect to middle seat blocking…sure kudos to them for doing so and charging 3 to 4 times what AA was charging for the same route. I could buy the whole row from AA and still save a lot of money…DL was charging us for that middle seat 3 and 4 times over. Not so nice as our former president (or current president as some would say) tends to say.

  9. As a merely Gold Medallion, I’ve had to wait as long as 13 days to get through to someone at Delta Vacations.

  10. I called two nights ago and was called back in 90 minutes and this morning was 19. I travel multiple times a week and never had this happen; hopefully never do.

  11. DL used to be the leader in service and they are falling well behind. DM agents used to answer immediately and have the power to make just about any exception to make top tier folks happy. Sadly, this is not the case any longer. I trust that they will restaff in due time, but they have lost a lot of that experience that made calling much easier.

    At least they are serving all drinks again in First.. and the Fever Tree club soda is a nice treat. (Little benefits)

  12. They will also call back at anytime. Twice my callbacks (which were supposed to be something like 12 minutes and 32 minutes) were several hours, and my phone rang in the middle of the night — around 3 or 4am. Unfortunately there’s no way to prevent this (other than silencing your phone, but I prefer to keep it on in case of emergency as I luckily get little spam overnight.)

  13. I mentioned this as a non-elite member calling in late March and was told “in excess of 9 hours”. I hung up.

    Sorry, in today’s economy $15 an hour isn’t going to cut it. Someone needs to wake up Delta and tell them there is a shortage of workers. Arizona isn’t known for high pay but the other day I was driving and saw a restaurant (not high-end) advertising pay for a kitchen cook starting at $20 an hour.

    You can get $15+/hr plus benefits at Chick Fil A.

    Times are changing. (Didn’t you post about the shortage of employees who aid those in wheel chairs? Same issue.)

  14. When is management going to understand that labor is a commodity — like anything else — and when it is in short supply, the price goes up? Delta is quoted as saying that they are trying to hire at $15/hr. Perhaps $30K/yr is simply not enough.

  15. Yes this is unfortunate and true but where else could I get a Better value when I redeem my miles?
    Prior to the pandemic I was able to get Delta one to Sydney for only 500,000 miles one way in business class.Only one million miles round trip.Try and beat that
    Worth every second on hold Thank you Sky Miles

  16. It sounds like they got too many reservations agents to retire and now they’re beverly understaffed. They should go back to everyone who took a retirement option and offer them the opportunity to come back.

  17. Had nonstop one-ways to/from SKB cancelled the same weekend (summer schedule rejigging), one on Delta, the other on AA. Called Delta late morning on Monday, told it was going to be 5 hours wait. Hung up, called AA, was talking to someone in less than 10 minutes. Not elite in either, so somewhat fair comparison of the difference.

  18. As a diamond I have been out on hold for 6 hours and for getting call back at 3am and waiting to get connected still and the line hung up. It has been bad. Also.these pilot time out has become a nuisance.

  19. Had friends visit last month. When they were returning home, the inbound plane that was going to carry them to ATL was delayed by 2 hours, which meant they would miss their connection. They called the Platinum line and were told it would be a 5 hour wait for a callback. I thought they were kidding. They were able to re-book online to leave the next day, and finally got a call back after about 4 hours! But if they hadn’t been able to re-schedule to the next day, they would have gone to the airport to talk to an agent there.

  20. Yup, it’s bad. I got a text notification that my flight was delayed something like 4 hours – which would make me miss my connection and delay my overall flight by almost a day. I called the platinum line and was told call back was something like 3 hours. I had to hightail it to the airport to get on the Southwest flight I rebooked myself, then went over to the Delta terminal on my layover in Phoenix and had one of the check-in agents cancel my flight and request a refund for me.

    The Delta line did call me back – literally as I was sitting on my Southwest flight at the gate – but the robo agent claimed not to hear me when I answered, and hung up on me. It called me back again at 12:30 at night. Great service. :-/

  21. @JJ I agree. It is a passenger value to pay $1,952 to travel with Delta Airlines in first-class from Detroit to LAX so we can enjoy an in-flight Fever Tree club soda.

  22. This does not match my experience. I call the designated reservations number for Delta Platinum members, and I sometimes have to use the “call back” option. The longest callback time I have had was 40 minutes.

  23. Delta anymore is just “lip service” when it comes to how they care about their customers. It was never that way back when it was REALLY Delta !

  24. This is because Deltas top money makers decided to pull a money saving trick instead of what’s best for the customers/company (since they don’t deal with the customers they can make decisions that impact customers and agents) The are trying for a universal specialist and with all the legality and scenarios a passenger can go through from trying to buy a ticket to picking up their luggage NO AGENT CAN HAVE ALL THE INFORMATION in their minds, it takes time to look up answers to questions customers have and some agents just say…can’t do that instead of finding the CORRECT ANSWER or RESOLUTION to the problem.

  25. Just as a reference point, in all my years as a UA 1K, I’ve never waited more than a minute for a representative to take my call.

    Sure seems like Delta has lost their way. Maybe management and employees should start wearing CLM Customer’s Lives Matter pins.

  26. I called complete. Bulshit I like people this is just people who like to complain I have never had a problem until then getting a call through when I’m completely empty is nothing more than a few minutes late call me back for an hour at the moment, I’m sorry cancelled flights are delayed flight it automatically reconnect that’s what happened the last time flight of mine was delayed they’d already reconnected the flight so there was absolutely no problem whatsoever you guys are just full of s***

  27. I was locked out of my SkyMiles account for “security reasons”. I filled out the form and submitted the ID requested for restoration 24 DAYS AGO. I received an email the day I filled out the form with a case number, but have not heard any follow up or been able to access my SkyMiles, again, for 24 days now. Called Customer Service but was not given the callback option, so waited for an agent for almost 2 hours but had to put the kids to bed and hang up. I’ve been on hold for a chat representative for 3 hours today already and still waiting. This is ridiculous. I want to book a flight but they are holding my SkyMiles hostage.

  28. “Delta will eventually lose business from loyal customers because of this”

    Yes, I’ve booked our regular summer trip on United instead, because Delta has not been able to get their act together for a year now. Luckily for Delta I am an infrequent flier.

  29. I’ve been on hold now for almost nine hours. I want to book a flight using a credit for an unused ticket however I was told I needed to call customer service since the amount of credit could not be confirmed. I have all the info, but nothing worked online. A nine hour plus hold to speak with an agent is criminal. They have held my money hostage for a almost a year now. I have gone out of my way to stay loyal to Delta for almost 40 years, even paying higher fares at times. I am DONE!

  30. I have been on hold for 5 hours with video and screenshots to prove it. A problem I can’t fix online. I’m sure 41 hours would be entirely possible. Not worth it to be in their Sky Miles program or for their credit card with this kind of “service”

  31. This is systematic problem with all businesses doing away with customer service and/or using “automated systems.” I have never called into a company wanting “automated” support, If I could have solved the problem I would have online. I called into National car rental because of a problem with a local branch and they said the local branch would call me back in 24 hours. Needless to say they never did. Verizon employees are disincentivized to help people because they are graded on how much upselling they do. But the corporations can pat themselves on the back because they aren’t hearing as many complaints (because you can’t get through to anyone) and when they do ask you for feedback the feedback isn’t on the process it is on how the representative did. It’s not the representatives fault the company can’t give them the tools to do their job.

  32. I have been trying to reach delta for 5 days . I used the call back multiple times and have not received a call back . I have spent 12+ hours on hold . I am never ever ever flying with delta again .

  33. Monday 6.5 hours
    Tues 5 hours
    Weds 1 hour. I stayed on hold for 2 hours and hung up.
    I am still waiting for my call back from Monday. I get texts every couple of hours asking if I am still waiting
    Customer service
    It appears delta is not happy until your not

  34. I just got re-booked, supposedly I have to stay one day longer on a stopover which is 3 hours driving from my arrival. ( It is an international ticket). They have done the same thing on my last flight. Naive as I am, I rebooked my ticket, thinking that I get my refund in a month. No refund yet.
    I have been on the phone on Tuesday 4 hours in the early am and 4 hours in the evening ( waiting time supposedly 2 hours ) no one picked up. Wednesday 6 hours – no one picked up. Today I called they told me 9 hours – I never got the option for a return call.
    How can Delta Airlines be allowed to be in business. I have flown this airline for 9 years as a frequent flyer. I flew through the Covid-19 pandemic, now that we are vaccinated it is even getting worse. I am so tired of” too big to fail – too big to show customer service and human decency”. Delta you really will lose me as a client. Sorry totally unacceptable

  35. Through the past week 5/23, 5/28, 5/29 the system has said that wait times on the main 800 number and chat are over 7hrs, it may be longer because I have yet to actually talk with a representative. One call said the wait time was under 1hr, I made the mistake of choosing the option of a call-back and never received a call.

    Delta modifying and canceling flights must only exacerbate the situation. An upcoming trip indicates the outbound leg was canceled, I only discovered this because I was checking the flight times, I have yet to even receive an email about the change and the presumably canceled flight is still available for sale online. Wait times are a problem but there seems to be more under the hood that needs fixing.

  36. Flying to Germany via Amsterdam. Required to get a COVID test. Wnat to take it in Detroit via Delta. Website does not allow scheduling. Nobody from Delta is available to explain how the required testing should take place. Fully vaccinated.

  37. Worked for me June 5 2021. I held for about 25 minutes at 8am. Excellent customer service from Singapore.

  38. Delta’s chat was over 7 hours waiting for a reply which it couldn’t answer my question,. The callback was over 24 hours. I’m a Delta frequent flyer and have been very satisfied up to this point. There is literally no excuse for this length of wait time. My reason for calling was to find out why i can no longer access Delta’s flight calendar. They got rid if it making literally impossible to search multiple days finding the best price. Other airlines still have theirs online. This is a HUGE mistake on Delta’s part. I have no clue of what the benefit is for getting rid of it. It’s now too time consuming to research flights on Delta. They have a very odd take of “costumer service.” I’m one customer that will be taking my business elsewhere.

  39. Ditto on all these problems. I’ve filed and sent by email my request to be credited for extra expenses I will incur for a flight cancellation where they rescheduled us on a later flight, thus incurring an extra day of hotel, car rental, and doggie day care; plus we now have to get up at 4:00am to make the new flight time. As an Atlanta resident, I am appalled and unforgiving of what Delta is doing to long-loyal customers.

  40. Delta is setting a new standard in identity politics and deputizing flight attendants to throw you off a plane for not wearing the mask-of-the-day preference that changes daily. Beware if you are on the phone in the terminal in a conference call addressing 12 people that can’t hear you through the mask, so you pull it down to be safely audible – not a soul within 20 feet of you – a Delta agent will threaten to kick you off a flight you aren’t even on. Mind you, while you are on the phone talking, they came up to me, grandstanding, interfering with my phone call. I have never in my professional career experienced such poor character and lack of professionalism. I am a loyal delta Silver Medallion member and have flown with delta for over 20 years. Delta needs to get back to the basics of their core business and stop dabbling in politics and virtue signaling. I’m about to take my business elsewhere.

  41. Delta’s Board needs to clean house-Platnium Million Miler -40 years flying Delta-but may never again-and using US Tax Dollars to buy Airbus planes made in Europe-disgraceful.

  42. Advice with the Delta ap please. They seemed to have quadruple charged me for a seat change and it still does not show up as a change on the seat map. Will a person at the airport be able to help me? I have waited for 4 hours to speak to a representative two days in a row. Chat queue was generic and a robot. They also did not offer a callback.

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