With 9 Hour Waits For An Agent, Here’s How To Get Help From American Airlines

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.

Here’s what to know:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

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. Why it pays to have status on the airline you fly the most. Going free agent seems to be the latest battlecry, but it has it’s downsides – this is one of them. When figuring out how much status is worth, I rarely see shorter wait times to speak to an agent counted for much – but when you need it, it’s more valuable than an upgrade, not to mention how much is your time worth?

  2. Just as on the Delta phone thread wait times to talk to someone are far less significant than how long it takes to get to one’s destination. A whole lot of these waits are because people don’t like the option they were given and not that they haven’t been given a rebooking option through one airline channel or another. Even though Southwest has a worse operation than American or United they manage to get people ultimately to their destination with little additional drama and their DOT complaints show it. And they apologize

  3. I called American once and the wait was for more than 4 hours, then…
    I called their number for online help, someone from India answered right away and I asked help in changing a reservation, he said that he could only help me with online issues, but he would transfer me to reservations, He did, then I waited on the phone for about 2 minutes !

  4. Completely unacceptable. How are people supposed to do business with them?
    They are unable to create a staffing model that provides reasonable customer service?
    I understand there can be peak periods, but waiting hours for CS is absolutely a deal breaker.

  5. An observation from a regular/non-elite AA member.
    AA may be prioritizing upcoming(<24 or 48 hours) international travel. I had to call and received a call back within 25 minutes. This was about 10 days ago. There were no major US weather events the day of my call.
    The agent returning my call, however spent over an hour working with her supervisor to resolve the issue with re-ticketing desk.
    Wonder if this higher level of support is a limiting factor?

  6. Just as an FYI, calling toll free numbers is free on Skype. Easy enough to have the application running in the background on your computer or tablet while doing other things.

  7. I was stuck in Charlotte for 7 hours on Saturday as my flight to Tampa was canceled. I am Executive Platinum and waited on hold for 3 hours before I spoke to someone who ultimately told me that only a gate agent could help me…‍♂️ I had decided to just go back home as missing that flight also made me miss my appointment the next morning. Eventually it was the chat agent through the AA app that got my flight changed.

    So…what am I doing wrong? I have called the Australia number before only to be told, on multiple occasions, that it’s not a working number? I have made sure the country code is correct but i haven’t had any luck.

  8. I tried the Spanish number twice the other day and was cut off. Normally I can keep pressing O at each pause, the someone picks up.

  9. Since reading the article about Parker’s real vision for AA, all of these changes make perfect sense. AA seems to be saying loud and clear: we don’t value customers and therefore customer loyalty. Maybe all airlines are becoming more like this, but they don’t seem to be doing so quite so openly.

    What doesn’t make sense is why they would think that any ( and especially business) travelers who had been loyal to AA in the past (and who have access to alternative carriers which value customer loyalty) would elect to continue to fly on them.

  10. Don’t bother ringing the Australian (generally Fiji) number as the wait times are horrendous. I think at some point when overwhelmed with calls they switch callers to the US network, and you know how that goes. Especially if you’re put on the end of that queue……..

  11. Can’t they just use overseas call centers? Buying a air ticket should not turn into a nightmare when things go wrong….

  12. They don’t respond on Twitter. I’m ExPlat and tweeted them during last IRROPS. There was no response for more than a day.

  13. This is not true about Twitter. I suspect the see who you are, verified account, etc. They USED to be helpful, but they have become awful. In fact, for an int’l trip, they tried upcharging me. I was livid. I had (have) it in writing and will be sharing that. I did manage (5 hours later) to get the original and guaranteed price, but they are a joke. Still I tried them again a couple weeks ago when I had been on hold FOUR hours for a cancellation the next day. I am “only” Plat Pro. Four hours when I had a predicted 2.5 hour hold. I reached out to them to get one of the last three available seats on a connecting flight. I knew EXACTLY what flights I wanted. All I needed was to be moved. But of course I could not do it online. They took an HOUR to reply and I lost the seats and had to spend SIX hours on standby without so much as an apology. I got basically no sleep that night because it took me 5.5 hours before I finally finished being moved to a crack of dawn flight, and a second stand-by. Then I never got full LP for the flights, which I am still too exhausted with AA to take up, but I will. I have a flight to the UK in June. The schedule changed significantly a month ago, and I know how it changed, but it STILL says “your schedule changed; check back soon to see what changed.” I need to call, but I haven’t the energy for incompetence yet. I used to love AA. I am currently awaiting their DOT reply to the only complaint I have made in my 22 years of flying. It was just filed a couple weeks ago (NOT about this), so I will see how that goes. I do actually feel bad for these workers because they just don’t have enough help. (Not the Twitter team, though, I don’t feel bad for them. They are ridiculous. They just like you because of who you are–which I know you are not TRYING to do, but your profile shows it). The joke is on ME, though. I just got a new job: in DALLAS.

  14. “Why it pays to have status on the airline you fly the most. Going free agent seems to be the latest battlecry, but it has it’s downsides – this is one of them.”

    Very true. I’m one of the throngs of 1K’s on UA but it has been invaluable in situations when things go wrong. Reluctantly, I just booked a trip on Southwest because UA was double the price. I’ll be holding my breath that things go smoothly.

  15. Another problem with AA is when you setup a callback for International reservation when you get the call back they are always saying hold on I will need to transfer you to International even though you selected International on the menu when setting up the callback so that is a wasted time twice waiting for a callback and than being transferred and waiting again

  16. And you were criticizing Delta? Please, it is an industry thing. But also true in most businesses as there has been this massive conversion to AI customer service. So when you really need an agent, there are not many on staff. Which not counting the hold times, are very difficult to reach because of the endless menus.

  17. Absolutely, JohnB, it’s an industry-wide problem, and an unacceptable one. I don’t blame airlines for IRROPS, but right now they are leaving customers in the lurch (sometimes for days) when IRROPS happen, and that is not OK. The current situation is bad enough that it has me reconsidering leisure air travel, and any paid flights I do book will now be done as a pair of one-way tickets as opposed to a round-trip ticket: that way, if the outbound flight experiences an IRROPS I have the option of just canceling it and booking on another airline without losing my return flight. Back when agents were reachable, that is a trick I would never have resorted to. But I feel compelled to do it now.

  18. A tip. A few hours before your flight, call AA and request a callback. If for some reason nothing goes wrong with your flight tell them that the problem solved itself.

  19. Nice to know that if you bought one of the $12,000 round trip tickets to London in first class they have a special line and answer immediately.

    Oh that’s right they have no clue on how to run a profitable airline. No wonder people with money stay away from American Airlines, and American’s profits and stocks are in the toilet.

  20. I called AA reservations a couple of days ago early morning, around 0800 and got a rep within 10 minutes. Today I called at 1030 and decided to hold because they stated “20-24 minutes”. It has now been 1 hr 35 minutes with no end in sight!! What a mistake!

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