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Here's how the TPG staff is beating long hold times and getting airline support quickly

July 13, 2022
5 min read
Alaska Airlines Airbus A320
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When you're flying and something goes wrong, the time it takes to get hold of an agent determines the severity of the interruption.

At a point of record-long hold times to speak with an agent, here are four ways that TPG's staff is getting hold of airline agents quickly.

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Foreign language lines: Kyle Olsen, points and miles reporter

(Photo by Kyle Olsen/The Points Guy)

In all fairness, my secret to getting in touch with an agent quickly isn't something you can acquire overnight.

Para continuar en espanol, oprima el numero dos. Pour continuer en francais, faites le numero trois.

Between a Spanish minor in college and several years of French lessons, my foreign language skills have been useful in getting connected with airline agents quickly. In particular, United's French line rarely has any wait, though it's open just 12 hours of the day. Despite sometimes feeling like I'm taking an oral exam, I almost always have an agent within 30 seconds of dialing the number.

Naturally, it's intimidating at first to call and speak with someone when it isn't your first language. But you can always start the call by asking the agent if the call can be conducted in English. From my experience, they almost always agree to converse in English (if they speak English), though occasionally I've been told that I have to be sent to the standard English-speaking queue for assistance in English.

If the agent doesn't speak English, I'll ask to continue the call in Spanish or French, and the agents are generally happy to assist. Remember your polite greetings, and don't forget to speak slowly and clearly.

Tip: Before you call, ensure you know how to spell out your confirmation number. For example, if your confirmation number is ABC123, you'll want to be able to say the equivalent of "A as in 'apple.'"

Phone numbers to dial for assistance in other languages are available from American Airlines, Delta Air Lines (only Spanish and Mandarin Chinese), JetBlue (only Spanish), Southwest Airlines (only Spanish) and United Airlines.

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Related: How to quickly reach an airline customer service agent

International phone numbers: Andrew Kunesh, points and miles editor

(Photo by Benjamin Girette/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Andrew has successfully outsmarted hold times by calling the local phone numbers of international airlines. For example, he called the Air France phone number (in France) via Skype and selected the English option. Nearly instantaneously, he was connected with an agent.

When I lived in London, I often reached out to the British call center for assistance with domestic U.S. flights. On one memorable occasion, I was trying to contact American Airlines for assistance with a wheelchair for a family member on a domestic flight. The U.S. line had a 2-plus-hour hold, and when I called the United Kingdom line, I was helped immediately.

Remember that when you call international phone numbers, you will likely be subject to international direct dial phone charges — even if the international number is toll-free. Consider buying Skype or Google Voice calling credit to lower your expenses

Related: Your flight is canceled or delayed – here’s what you should do next

Instant messages: Benet Wilson, senior editor

About to take off on a Southwest plane at Boston Logan International Airport (BOS). (Photo by Sean Cudahy/The Points Guy)

Benet is a loyal Southwest flyer. When there’s a problem, she uses Southwest's online chat service. From her experience, nine times out of 10 they solve it.

On a recent flight home from New Orleans, her plane departed late, making the connection tighter. While in flight, she went to the Southwest app and visited the "Contact Us" section. She could chat online over the plane's Wi-Fi with an agent, who let her know that the connecting flight was also running late, so she wouldn’t miss it.

Related: An upgrade worth the investment: 7 thoughts from my 1st Southwest Airlines flight in nearly 18 months

Text messages: Summer Hull, editorial director

(Photo by Kyle Olsen/The Points Guy)

Summer chatted via text with United over the weekend, and she had a remarkably positive experience with little hold time.

Like Summer, I've had positive experiences with United's messaging service. When it launched in 2020, I had issues with agents never getting back to me; however, my recent inquiries have all been handled perfectly.

On a recent flight from Cape Town International Airport (CPT) to San Francisco International Airport (SFO) via Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) on United, I woke up somewhere over the Atlantic to learn that the connecting flight to SFO had been canceled due to an operational issue. Through the United app, I was able to message an agent who was able to get us rebooked on another flight to SFO.

Before landing in Newark, I had the boarding passes on my phone for the next flight.

Related: American and United now let you text to chat with an agent

Bottom line

With increased travel demand and seemingly endless operational issues, knowing ways around long hold times can help you save time when something goes wrong. Bookmark this page and refer to it the next time you need to contact an airline ASAP. Who knows, it could be just the thing that saves your trip from disaster.

Featured image by Alaska Airlines Airbus A320. KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.