Long airline hold times continue as Americans race to book spring and summer travel
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Hours spent on hold with airlines has been the norm for the past several months, and according to some passengers, there’s little sign of change.
Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter!
However, as passengers try to use a variety of vouchers, credits, and canceled tickets from the height of the pandemic to book their post-vaccination travel, they’re flooding airline reservation support lines.
For instance, Nick Christopher experienced a two-hour wait time when he called American Airlines after having an issue redeeming a flight credit online, he told TPG. He initially also had trouble getting the airline’s call-back feature to work, though eventually managed to request a return call when he was at the front of the queue.
Over the course of 2020, the biggest four airlines — American, Delta, Southwest and United — had issued around 21.5 million credits and vouchers, worth a combined $10.4 billion, a previous analysis by TPG found.
Now, passengers are trying to put those vouchers to work. About 12% of all new tickets for travel with United are being purchased with credits, chief operating officer Andrew Nocella said earlier this week.
That’s led to a deluge of calls to airline reservations agents, along with calls from passengers who need help for other issues with their flights.
Earlier this month, for example, Josh Fiallo needed to link his reservation on Delta with his girlfriend’s separate reservation for the same flight. He called the reservation line and was given an estimated hold time of an hour; three hours later, he gave up and tried texting the airline, Fiallo told TPG.
The airlines all say they’re working on meeting the customer demand.
“American is working quickly to resolve the issue, and we appreciate our customers’ patience,” a spokesperson for the airline said. “While call wait times are longer, we recently began the process to return more representatives to work so that we can better support our customers.”
“While we are seeing a higher call volume from customers who are excited to start traveling again, we are working to best support our customers by increasing staffing resources and providing self-service options to assist with their travel needs,” a Delta representative told TPG. “We recommend that customers who need to rebook, make changes or want to explore travel requirements, first try using our online self-service tools to make adjustments.”
A Southwest representative said that while hold times have been longer than normal lately, they’ve been decreasing recently.
Ultimately, the best step seems to be to plan ahead wherever possible and anticipate the long wait.
Also worth noting: passengers with elite frequent flyer status may find shorter wait times if they call dedicated elite phone lines. TPG’s Zach Honig, for instance, has had little-to-no wait in recent days when calling United’s 1K line.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated to reflect that long hold times remain an ongoing concern for travelers.
Featured image by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees