Long telephone hold times are the new normal when trying to reach an airline. They shed reservations agents during the pandemic. At American Airlines reservations agents were moved to the airport. And today’s travelers – predominantly leisure customers – call the airline more than business travelers did.
Add in weather and other problems and hold times spiral out of control. This past weekend we were seeing 5 and even 9 hour hold times to reach an American Airlines agent. Fortunately there are workarounds.
— CRR12 (@inqmind12) April 3, 2022
I’ve been calling @AmericanAir longer than their workers’ shift and still no answer. Trying to modify the sked change they made, that I can’t modify online. I can’t believe I even held that long. Absolutely unacceptable. UNACCEPTABLE! pic.twitter.com/fZGyIgg3zw
— TRL (@ThseRunwayLghts) April 3, 2022
Here’s what to know:
- Hold times for elites may not be as bad as quoted. When an Executive Platinum calls American and is quoted wait time of several hours, that may be true but it may not be true. If you request a call back it’ll probably take as long as quoted. But if you wait on hold you might get through much quicker. I’ve been quoted 2 hour wait times and had an agent pick up in less than 10 minutes.
- Direct message American Airlines on Twitter. While some airlines (cough, Delta) generally aren’t helpful with personalized customer service on Twitter, American Airlines still is. In fact I often find they’re some of the best and most helpful agents. They can get overwhelmed, too, but if you clearly provide your reservation details and write out what you need you don’t need to wait on hold – they will answer you and can take action for you.
- Dial an international call center. Instead of dialing American Airlines in the United States, dial one of their call centers in another country. When there’s bad weather in the U.S. everyone calls the U.S. and hold times for foreign call centers generally aren’t wore than usual. That doesn’t mean they pick up on the first ring, but you might wait 10-20 minutes instead of hours.
Here are American’s worldwide customer service numebrs. I call Sydney or London reservations. Use an internet calling system so you don’t pay toll charges.
- Seek help from numerous places in the airport. There are kiosks, customer service agents, gate agents, ticket counter agents, and agents in Admirals Clubs if you have access. Any of these may be able to help you. I keep club access mostly for help during irregular operations. These agents tend to have shorter lines and offer greater help.
If I were truly faced with a 9 hour hold time, and really needed help, I might even go to the airport and either buy a ticket or book an Admirals Club conference room to get a gate pass and help from a club agent even if I didn’t have lounge access.
Just remember to ‘be nice’ and you’re likely to get more help and better options. You don’t want an agent to treat you as one person in a hundred that are in their line, looking to move through the queue as quickly as possible. Be a person, interact with them as a person, smile and empathize with their plight dealing with unhappy people and they’ll be more likely to help you. This advice applies to customer service in any large organization by the way.