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I saved hours on hold by calling the airline's foreign call center

April 29, 2020
4 min read
I saved hours on hold by calling the airline's foreign call center
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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Maximillian, who was able to get in contact with an airline faster by thinking outside the box:

I have a helpful hint for anyone who really needs to contact an airline by phone right now: instead of calling the main U.S. hotline number you can use Skype to call one of the foreign offices for a fair price.

Today I wanted to ask about a flight change for a trip in three days but was put on hold on the United line for "approximately more than two hours.“ I’m currently traveling in Australia and didn’t have time to wait so I looked up the German number. Halfway around the world the German office was still open at 3 a.m. local time. Expecting to speak to someone German I was put on another hold with the option to switch to an English agent for faster processing. Of course I switched but still expected a wait. Nope, after two (!) minutes of initially calling I was speaking to an agent. Of course if you can rebook online just do that, to keep the wait times shorter.

You can look up foreign offices for any airline online on their website. Most of them aren’t 24/7 so you also need to look at the opening times and of course possible time differences. I guess all foreign offices have the option to talk to somebody in English so the language isn’t really an issue. Using Skype from Australia to Germany had a noticeable time lag though, so maybe try geographically closer offices first.

On a different note, this might also apply if you want to redeem miles via phone. The (English speaking) Asiana Office in Frankfurt was very competent without any wait, while I heard different things from the U.S. hotline.

We’re in this all together, so hopefully this situation will be over soon. To anybody flying the next days: stay Safe!

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As the coronavirus continues to cause unprecedented travel disruptions, contacting an airline about a change or cancellation is becoming a bit of a nightmare. Maximillian is right that if you can take care of the trip yourself online (which many airlines are now allowing) you should do that, and for simple requests you can also try messaging the airline on Twitter to avoid waiting on hold and clogging up the phone lines.

Related: How to quickly reach an airline customer service agent

If you have to call, you might be able to skip much of the waiting time and still get helped in English if you reach out to a foreign call center instead. This can also be a great trick to use if you're trying to book new travel, with two specific examples that jump to mind. Even though Etihad isn't a member of any of the major alliances, they have a partnership with American Airlines that includes reciprocal mileage redemptions. American Airlines phone agents at the U.S. call centers can't always see all the Etihad award space, so a popular workaround is to call one of AA's Australian call centers to book the ticket.

I was also able to use this trick to score some amazing awards on the very first day that Marriott closed its SPG merger and launched the new loyalty program (even before the Bonvoy name came along). The U.S. call centers had multi-hour wait times and the agents were locked out of the award reservation system for much of that first day, but I spoke to a friendly agent in the Malaysian office who was able to book me everything I wanted before the dust had settled.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! Please email your own award travel success stories to info@thepointsguy.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes; due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Featured image by Getty Images

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
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Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023