275 minutes wait: why airline customer service still can't keep up

“When you can’t plan things on your day off, it can break your spirits,” said Edison fraser , the transportation coordinator of the Inter...


“When you can’t plan things on your day off, it can break your spirits,” said Edison fraser, the transportation coordinator of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, a union that represents reservation agents for Southwest Airlines.

Emirates, which employs 1,900 people to handle calls, says the median wait time to have an agent on the phone is just over six minutes. The company, which is one of the the biggest airlines in the world, achieves this by giving agents targets involving a specific number of seconds to handle various types of calls, emails shared with the New York Times show.

Keeping a call at around 500 seconds, or 8.5 minutes, has become much more stressful during the pandemic, said a former Emirates reservation agent, who asked not to be identified by name because her contract prohibits her to talk about his employer. Passengers expected her to answer questions such as: Could there be someone from a particular country with a high infection rate sitting within five rows of me? When she couldn’t answer, they often screamed.

She rarely met her metrics goals, which were related to bonuses, so she quit.

“We are not machines,” she said. (An Emirates representative said that these time targets are “benchmarks” used “primarily for forecasting purposes, to ensure that we have sufficient resources to handle our customers’ demands.”)

That’s the plan, according to many airlines. But passengers are unlikely to see the plan translate into reduced wait times anytime soon, several industry analysts have said. They came up with several theories to explain why not.

The first theory is that you can’t hire quickly because airlines, like restaurants and retailers, are struggling with a labor shortage. In support of this theory, Dan Landson, a spokesperson for Southwest, said the company has never had a harder time filling jobs. The company tries to hire 1,000 customer representatives, he said, but instead of 80 applicants per opening, a pre-pandemic standard, the company receives between 10 and 15 applicants.

American, which recently hired thousands of reservation agents, bringing its total to 4,400 in the United States, and plans to hire more, said it was also struggling to fill jobs.

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Newsrust - US Top News: 275 minutes wait: why airline customer service still can't keep up
275 minutes wait: why airline customer service still can't keep up
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