If you've ever tried to get in touch with an airline by phone, you are familiar with being on hold.
Now one airline is doing away with phone calls altogether, frustrating travelers like Patricia Magruder.
She was looking forward to taking a trip, but was having trouble getting a voucher from Frontier Airlines to work.
So she called Frontier, but was stunned by the automated message she received.
"They said the phone lines were shut off. They said go to the chat and we'll take care of you through the chat," Magruder said.
She, like many travelers right now, was unaware that Frontier recently shut down its customer service phone lines, forcing her to an online chat system that she struggled to use.
"I think it's very wrong," she said.
Why the airline is shutting down phone service
The move away from phone service is less of a surprise to Caroline Teel, managing editor of Smarter Travel.
"Frontier is a low-cost airline," Teel explained. "I think we're seeing airlines look to cut budget anywhere they can."
In a statement, Frontier confirmed its customer care services are now fully digital.
Frontier says the switch "enables us to ensure our customers get the information they need as expeditiously and efficiently as possible."
It says instead of dialing a number, Frontier travelers can:
- Interact with a chatbot for common questions.
- Chat with an agent live about a specific issue.
- Reach out on social media channels.
- Use the platform "WhatsApp."
Teel worries about older travelers who aren't comfortable with online chats, or anyone who is traveling internationally on other carriers who might choose to eliminate phone care, and who have weak internet service.
Teel's top tip to reach any airline: Simultaneously try as many methods as you can at once.
Get on your phone, tablet, or laptop, and use whichever connects you quickest.
And if you’re at the airport, Teel says, "I'll get in the line, and at the same time, I'll call customer service. And I'll log on and I'll get in line for the online chat."
Frontier won’t be the first airline without phone-based customer support; Breeze Airways also relies on online chats, texts and email.
Patricia Magruder's not happy, however.
"For you to not be able to call somebody and talk to them, it's just not fair," she said.
But if you are flying with some discount airlines, you may have to deal with this new reality, so you don't waste your money.
FRONTIER'S FULL STATEMENT:
“Our Customer Care function recently transitioned to fully digital communications, which enables us to ensure our customers get the information they need as expeditiously and efficiently as possible. We have found that most customers prefer communicating via digital channels. Customers can visit our website and interact initially with a chatbot which 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.”
Don't Waste Your Money" is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. ("Scripps").
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