If this last weekend’s airline problems were a precursor to summer travel, then we’re all in for a long haul. Because of this weekend’s fiasco that seemed to affect a number of airlines, I wrote several posts including: Is JetBlue Playing an April Fools’ Joke or is This a Glitch? I followed up when I saw that multiple U.S. airlines had had tons of delays and cancelations and for different reasons. Here’s that story. Then yesterday, I wrote: Airline Meltdowns in Florida Are a Warning That Summer Travel is Going to Be a Doozy.
I realize there was bad weather in Florida but what took place this weekend was more than just severe thunderstorms. Airline operations shouldn’t spiral if there are just a few hours of storms … and other airlines proved it.
American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest and Spirit really ticked off a lot of passengers this week and I’m hearing from readers that JetBlue was the biggest culprit. Just read the comments on these Facebook posts: 1, 2.
I think every traveler realizes that airlines have no control over the weather but what they can’t understand or put up with is an airline that doesn’t have enough staff to answer the phones.
Everyone knows the pandemic really crushed the airlines financially. But thanks to government money, they shouldn’t have come out of lockdown with so few workers. I know every service industry is still having problems finding help but it’s severely amplified when it comes to travel because oftentimes you’re stuck and at an airline’s mercy.
I’ve been saying this for a while that airlines have reduced their schedules or downsized their flights so almost every plane is going out full — especially to popular destinations like Florida during Spring Break.
So when a flight gets canceled and the airline has no space to put you, their systems rebook you on flights that could be days later and to nearby airports. That’s exactly what happened to my sister. She paid extra to fly in and out of Westchester Airport, which is on the border of New York and Connecticut and an easy drive from her house.
Well, JetBlue switched her to Newark Airport, which is 48 miles further and two hours in traffic. Not to mention a much more hectic drive.
Fortunately, my other sister lives in Florida so she had a free place to stay because finding a hotel room in Florida during Spring Break is not easy and it’s crazy expensive. But that’s another story.
The worst part is that JetBlue and some other airlines don’t allow you to go online and change the flight they reserved for you and they couldn’t get a hold of a customer service agent to change the flight. It’s extremely frustrating. It’s also crazy expensive and time intensive.
There have been countless reports of customers being placed on hold for several hours and I believe it. My sister sent me a photo of her husband’s phone (photo above) of being on hold over the three-hour mark and the agent still hadn’t picked up.
On Saturday, I tried calling American Airlines (AA) to book a ticket using a credit (their website wouldn’t allow me to book it online) and my hold time was between three and four hours. Thankfully, AA has a free callback option but JetBlue doesn’t so that exacerbates their customers frustration even more. Don’t their executives know what it’s like to be on hold for hours? You can’t make other calls and you’re afraid to walk into another room in case the call drops. It’s ridiculous and in this day and age, there’s no excuse for them not to upgrade to a callback feature.
If you’re trying to reach an airline agent, here’s how I get through without waiting:
1. If you’re at the airport and your flight gets canceled, then make a bee line to the airline’s club (if they have one) and pay the day fee if you don’t already have a membership. Agents in there usually have more pull and aren’t that busy.
2. If the airline doesn’t have an airport club or they aren’t selling day passes then get in line at customer service or find a vacant gate agent willing to help (a $20 bill might persuade them). While in a long line, call the airline’s 800 number, use their app’s chat feature (if they have one) and contact them via Twitter.
If you’re not at the airport and the hold times are hours then:
3. Twitter is by far your best resource in these matters and that couldn’t be more true than with AA as they have a very good and large communications team. I sent them a DM asking if they could add my daughter as a lap child and they replied within 20 minutes that it was all done (see screenshot below). The second time around, they were even quicker.
4. If Twitter fails, then see if your airline has a chat feature. Sometimes agents there are a lot quicker.
5. One of the quickest ways to reach an airline is to call one of their international call centers. Use Skype so you don’t have to spend a lot of money. Here’s more on this tip.
6. A tip I learned last year but never tried is from David Slotnick of The Points Guy. David says “Try an airline’s Spanish-language line.” I’ve never tried it but it seems solid, especially if you speak Spanish but I’m sure that’s not a prerequisite.
7. Gary Leff of A View From The Wing, has a workaround for reaching Delta Air Lines. Gary writes: “Delta has a dedicated number with priority for travel within 48 hours: 1-855-548-2505.”
So, my advice is to try to do everything online and if you can’t, then don’t wait until the last minute to make any changes. This is also a good reason to book through a good travel agent because they will do the dirty work for you. If not, try the tips above.