Press 1 to be frustrated, and 2 to be even more frustrated.
As many positive signs emerge that covid-19 is being managed in most of the world, airlines are tuning up their marketing machines with promotions and messages to get people back into the skies. They want new bookings, and they want them now. There’s just one problem: many of us had bookings, which we’d either like to change or cancel, and they’re not so interested in those.
Press 1 to make a new booking, and 2 to change an existing booking. It’s fair to assume that by “change”, many of the people pressing 2 right now are looking to cancel and get their refunds initiated. Not all, but many. As one of those hoping to do the latter, and simply change a booking within the guidelines to a safer date, I pressed 2.
“Due to an extremely high call volume, we cannot take your call, goodbye”. The line automatically disconnected.
I went through this exercise at various times of days, for a few days of the week, not wishing to make the airlines job of securing new bookings any more difficult than it already is. But then I said you know what, I’m a customer, I’m one of the relative few who already dumped new money in your business during lockdown, to the tune of a few thousand in new tickets, and not taking my call is unacceptable.
So what did I do? I lied. It worked, over and over again.
Testing this across a variety of airlines and speaking to many readers, the only semi effective way to get in touch with an airline right now, other than social media, is to lie. Just tell them you want to spend money, you can go right through. Looking to get yours back after 100’s of days of waiting, or desperate to make a crucial change? We can’t take your call.
It’s the wrong message to send from people desperate for new money. I, like most customers, tend to consider how I was treated the last time before making a booking for a new time. If only they weren’t so uniformly awful, I might have an easier time picking my next air carrier.
Sadly, it’s all due to the vicious cycle of covid-19 and aggressive businesses which refuse to lose a dime, for anything, even if only temporarily. At airlines around the world, support staff for call centers and customer service were among the first let go. Executives, of course, barely took a pay cut, if one at all. Sure, there’s social media to get in touch, but it can’t solve every problem, and even Twitter can take days to get a response.
In other words, if there were 1000 people to answer your call before, there are about 50 now, and more people are calling than ever. Anything to save a buck, right?
The games airlines played with refunds or cancellation rights, like United reinventing the definition of a cancelled flight were bad enough, but being unreachable without significant effort – literally using automated machines to hang up on customers – or re-coding websites to remove refund options – is just terrible business.
If you’ve got business to settle with an airline, the advice is simple – just lie, tell them you want a new ticket and then when you finally get in touch with someone, handle your business. Just do it quickly, so someone else can too…