When is it time to call your airline?
While airlines around the world are cutting flights and capacity, the call centers are getting more and more overwhelmed by travelers looking to cancel or change their tickets. We've seen wait times exceed two hours — if you're even able to get through.
Though we have a comprehensive guide to getting in touch with airlines, sometimes it pays to wait before calling in. Why? Read on to find out.
Urgent issues are handled first
As hold times continue to increase, we've seen multiple airlines plead with passengers to only call in if their flight is within the next 72 to 96 hours.
Since customer service departments have limited capacity, airlines are asking customers to prioritize those with immediate needs. Now that airlines are working on repatriation flights, it's even more important to let those looking to get home speak directly to airlines. If you're not scheduled to travel within the next few days, you should be patient.
Furthermore, the change fee waivers that are in place aren't deleted or removed after a certain date. If your itinerary falls under a waiver today, you can still make changes — even if you don't call immediately.
Better chance of a refund
The coronavirus outbreak is unprecedented. Carriers are making changes to their schedule almost daily. There's a good chance that your flight scheduled for April or May (or later) may actually end up being changed or canceled.
Since schedules over the next few months are subject to change based on demand and government regulations, there's no reason to rush to make voluntary changes. Though there are waivers allowing free changes, you are often limited by your ticket expiration date as well as possible fare differences.
In addition to waiting to call your airline to free up capacity for more urgent needs, you're actually increasing your chance at getting a refund back to your original form of payment. When an airline cancels a flight (no matter the reason) or there's a significant schedule change, you're eligible for a full refund.
Online tools are faster and easier
Many changes and cancellations can be made online. You don't necessarily need to call an airline to simply move your flight date or refund a ticket. Before calling an airline, make sure that you tried using the "manage my reservation" tab on the carrier's website.
Nowadays, most major airlines have posted how-to guides to making online changes or cancellations.
In my mind, it only makes sense to call an airline after trying to make modifications online. If that's unsuccessful, then I'd try using social media (primarily Twitter). And only then would I pick up the phone.
The question of when it's time to call your airline will vary based on your personal situation. If you've got upcoming travel within the next few days, then it's fair game.
But if you're making a change well before your flight, it pays to wait — especially if you're looking to get a refund. Also, don't forget to see if it's possible to make online modifications to your itinerary.
Above all else, though, is the importance of patience. Not only will it increase your chances of getting a refund, but it'll also open up the phone lines for those with urgent needs.