Airline call center hold times often got long before the pandemic, one of the more popular features I’ve covered is ways around long hold times – like calling American Airlines foreign call centers, or ringing up Delta’s close-in travel hotline.
But you can always wait – whether it’s an hour, five hours or 40 hours – to reach an agent to help sort out a problem with your ticket, when your flight is cancelled or maybe your reservation just didn’t get ticketed properly. Always, at least, except at Frontier Airlines which has just eliminated telephone customer service.
Their old customer service line – (801) 401-9000 – wasn’t even an 800 number. They weren’t going to pay the cost of your call. That was fair. Perhaps they didn’t think it would go over well to charge for ‘premium support’ to speak with an agent.
Here’s what you get when you dial now:
We offer the lowest fares in the industry by operating our airlines as efficiently as possible. We want our customers to operate efficiently as well, which is why we make it easy to find what you need at FlyFrontier.com or on our mobile app. We also have a chat service.
Spirit Airlines used to proudly declare that their twitter feed was unmonitored – why provide customer service there, it’s expensive, and less investment in the customer experience was how they delivered their cheap, bare bones product. But they never eliminated customer service entirely.
According to the airline,
We have found that most customers prefer communicating via digital channels,” the discount carrier said. “Customers can visit our website and interact initially with a chatbot that provides answers to common questions. If live agent support is needed, we have live chat available 24 hours a day / 7 days a week. Customers may also chat with us via common social media channels and Whatsapp.
This. Is. Insane. There are plenty of things that could be done online, or through the airline’s mobile app. And if you want to fly Frontier it’s not nuts for them to expect the burden to be on the customer to use the least-costly means of interacting with them. They already set up their fees in a way to encourage online check-in, prepayment of bags before getting to the airport, etc.
However they have customers that simply aren’t going to be able to interact that way. Indeed, I wonder whether removing this channel of customer service will comply with the Air Carrier Access Act (though I haven’t tested the accessibility of their website and mobile app).
At a minimum there needs to be a way to escalate problems beyond online chat when the airline itself screws up. Require most customer service to go through their designated channels, but don’t make it a frustrating experience when the reason a passenger seeks help is because of a problem caused by Frontier.
Ultimately the low cost model means paying less for your ticket but paying more in time and potential frustration. At some level, that’s more than fair. Just update your priors about what it means to fly this low cost carrier or really any Bill Franke airline. (Remember this?)