Over the years we have seen significant changes in the airline industry. The high cost of running an airline operation has caused most airlines to cut back on service, add additional fees, pack more seats to their aircraft, and limit connecting times to the point where sprinting from gate to gate is the norm. Unfortunately many of these changes have not been to the benefit of the passenger, but there are a several changes that have benefitted the customer.
Booking flights is now easier than ever, when is the last time you went to an airport, or a travel agent to buy an airline ticket? The heavy competition between airlines has forced prices to stay low, especially with the advent of low-cost carriers like Southwest and Spirit. Technology has advanced to the point where you have information for your entire trip, paperless and in the palm of your hand via an airline app. Airlines are now servicing more and more destinations with the use of regional aircraft that can fit into smaller airports, and many more advancements that are traveler friendly.
From an airline employee viewpoint a lot of these changes have been a double-edged sword. Better technology allows for improved baggage and passenger tracking. Automatic systems are in place to rebook passengers in cases of missed connections, and the check in counter is a thing of the past. Online and self check in is continuing to be the norm for most airlines. There are even some airlines that have the passengers tag and drop their own checked luggage! The move toward automation has left disconnected passengers from airline employees, and personalized service is harder to come by. The fact is that there are less airline employees nowadays then there were 20 years ago, the need for people on the ground has been limited significantly.
Odds are, if you need to speak with an airline representative face to face during your trip then you have some sort of problem. When things are running smoothly it is unlikely that you will deal with any airline personnel before you actually board your plane. Although they may not seem to be ever-present, there are still people working for the airlines, ready to answer when you have a problem. As technology has changed, so has the methods of contacting airline customer service. You now have many options when you need to talk to someone.
Here are some of the ways to contact airline personnel, and some of the things they can, or may not be able to help you with.
- At the gate
Typically the gate agent(s) who will be working your flight will be in the gate area around 30 minutes prior to scheduled boarding time for your flight. Gate agents are usually very good at there jobs and can assist with amost anything you ask, especially if its about the flight that they are working on at the time. If you have questions on a different or later flight than the one they are working then the agent may direct you towards a customer service center. Don’t be insulted if they send you away or can’t answer your question. They have a lot of work to do, and their focus will be on the flight that is being worked at that time. They are simply directing you to somewhere that can help you more effectively.
Things that gate agents will assist with:
- Seat changes
- Print boarding passes
- Inflight entertainment and dining information
- Wheelchair assistance at connecting airports
- Gate information
- Switching to earlier flights (as long as the destination is the same as present flight at the gate)
- Baggage claim information
- General airport enquiries (directions, restaurants, restrooms, pet relief areas, smoking zones)
- Customer Service Counter
The Customer Service Counter is a great place to get information about anything related to the airline. The agents at the service counter will be able to answer most of your questions if there is no gate agent present at your gate. Some airlines have changed their service counters and eliminated actual agents working the desk. You will see phones with direct lines to the airline reservations center, and self service kiosks to assist passengers. Picking up the phone and talking to an agent in reservations should help to find a suitable resolution to your issue, although it lacks a personal touch. Agents at a customer service counter will be helpful, but in certain situations the lines at these counters can get extremely long. Click here to learn how to avoid the lines.
At the Customer Service Counter you can:
- Get general airport information
- Change and book flights
- Request seat changes and upgrades
- Get rebooked and receive amenities when you have been inconvenienced or missed a flight
- Get airline loyalty program information
- Airline Ticketing Desk
The ticketing desk is usually located near the check in counters for the airline. The ticketing desk acts as a Customer Service Counter for the front of house. Agents working the ticketing counter can assist passengers with most issues relating to flights.
Check with ticketing if you:
- Need to buy a ticket
- Are requesting wheelchair assistance
- Have trouble checking in
- Need to change your ticket
- Have missed your flight and need to be rebooked
- Need overnight accommodations due to missed connection. Especially if line at the Customer Service counter is extremely long
- Are checking in a group
- Are checking in oversized or irregular luggage (surfboards, kayaks, firearms, large musical instruments)
- Baggage Service
The personnel at baggage service are usually camped out near the airline’s baggage claim area. They will assist with all things baggage related. These employees do not work with general ticketing, seat changes, gate information etc. Make sure you have all of your checked bag information when headed to the baggage counter. You should have a bag claim check from when you dropped your bag. That will have the info you need.
You will need to see baggage service if:
- Your checked bag does not make it to your destination
- A claim will be filed and the bag will be delivered to you
- Your checked baggage or items inside are damaged.
- The airline may compensate you for damage
- You can’t find your baggage claim carousel
- You need to borrow a stroller, car seat, or assistive device due to non-delivery.
- Sometimes these items will miss flights, the airline will have some of these items available to loan
You will need to contact reservations via phone. Check here for your airline’s contact info. Calling reservations is a good idea if you need to change or book a flight and the line at the customer service counter is extremely long. A quick call could get you on you way ASAP. Make sure you have your confirmation number and destination information available before you call.
Call Reservations if:
- You have missed a flight and the customer service counter line is very long
- You need to change or cancel your reservation
- You need to book a flight
- Want to buy an upgrade
- Social Media
Yes, your airline is most likely on social media. Namely Facebook and Twitter. Contacting your airline via one of these methods is sure to get a quick response, especially if you have been inconvenienced by the airline. Voice your complaint and there is a good chance that one of the agents working on the airlines social media account will assist you.
Head to the airline’s social media page for:
- Rebooking in cases of missed connections
- Complaints and compliments. You don’t always have to be in a bad mood to tell an airline what you’re thinking.
- Requesting flight and gate information, especially in delay situations
- Information about compensation for being inconvenienced
If you find yourself in an airport with an important question then you can use one of these six contact methods to get some help with your trip. Even if you are angry or frustrated it is always a good idea to keep calm and be courteous to whomever you are communicating with. The airline employee you are talking with is much more likely to assist you if you are not yelling and screaming. Their job is to assist you to make your travel experience as pleasant as possible, and they are working hard to make things right if everything has gone wrong for the day or the trip. Remember, just because everyone else is standing in long lines, you don’t need to join them. It’s always a good idea to check with a gate, make a phone call, or jump on your twitter looking for help. You might be able to get assistance quickly.