I spent the greater part of this Morning on the phone with United’s Reservations Desk booking a pretty cool open jaw European Itinerary complete with a ride on Lufthansa’s A380 (albeit in Economy but it is still the A380, so in the words of Larry David, it is still pretty prettay prettayy good).
The reason I am sharing this information with you guys is because when I first tried to call United’s main Customer Service number to book this Itinerary, I was told there was a 60 minute wait to speak to an attendant.
I decided to pass on that.
Why United just can’t take your phone number down and call you back when an Agent is free, I am not sure.
Personally I hate calling into Call Centers, so if possible I try to do all booking and changes online.
However in this case, because the Itinerary was semi-complex, I had to call it in.
For all 2 of you that used to read my pre-FFU blog way back in 2009, you may remember that I inadvertently caused a semi-riot when I “accidentally” published the phone number to British Airways’ Gold Members Elite line.
The reason I did this was because I got annoyed having to wait 45+ minutes each time I wanted to speak to a BA Agent. Thus I made my own rules and simply did some Googling and found the British Airways Elite Members Phone Number.
The ironic thing, and why people got so angry, is because British Airways never bothered to check the identity of members calling their Elite line.
They figured that if you had the number, it was because you were suppose to have the number.
So whenever I needed to call British Airways, instead of waiting 1 hour for an Agent, I would just call the BA Gold Line and someone would pick up instantly.
Anyways after I published the number, the actual British Airways Elites went nuts saying it wasn’t fair, and in a matter of days, magically the Gold Phone Number changed.
The point of that story is that knowing the right phone number to call, can really make all the difference.
That being said, unfortunately I don’t have any Elite Phones numbers and now typically before they connect you, the Robot Voice asks for your Frequent Flyer Number to verify that you are in fact an Elite.
What I do have though is a fairly useful trick.
If you call into a US based call center and get hit with a long wait time, the trick is to simply call another one of the Airline’s Call Centers in a foreign country where it is past peak hours.
For example, today when I called United’s US Reservation Desk, because it was during the day, the Agents were busy which resulted in a 60+ minute hold time.
So instead of waiting around on the phone for a US based Agent, I simply pulled up United.com’s International Reservation Phone Numbers and looked to see which offices were currently open.
Europe is 7 or so hours ahead making it around evening time there, so I thought I would give them a ring.
So via Skype, I called United’s UK Reservation Desk and within 1 minute I had someone helping me book my reservation!
The most ironic part about having to call United’s UK Reservation Desk?
The Agent that picked up on the other end was definitely based in the US.
So now I am starting to wonder if when the British call United’s UK Reservation Desk and it gets outsourced back to the US, if the British People say “F#$%&ing Americans, I can’t understand a bloody thing they are saying! Why do they have to outsource the calls! I just want someone who speaks proper English!”
This strategy of calling International Offices does not just only apply to United, as I found out while I was reading Twitter during my Phone Booking.
It seems Rapid Travel Chai was having some issues with AA rebooking his Wedding Anniversary flight which AA changed without his consent and his call kept getting dropped by AA.
How To Call International Call Centers For Pennies
While a couple of years ago, it would not be financially feasible to call the UK or Australia and talk for 30 minutes, the rise of Smart Phones and VOIP (aka Skype, Vonage, etc), has made it possible to call anywhere in the entire World for pennies.
The service I use to make cheap International calls is Skype.
It is a free software that you can use on your Smart Phone or straight from your Computer, and as long as you are calling Landline Phones internationally, it is literally pennies per a minute.
Now if you are a true penny pincher, then there are services that are even cheaper, but Skype is a reputable company, you more than likely already have it installed on your computer, and the call quality is pretty good.
Calling An International Call Center
If you speak another language fluently, then you can try calling Spain, Mexico, France, Germany, etc, but if not, it is best to call either Australia, Canada, or the UK, depending on what time it is.
Hopefully they will just route your call back to the US!
Once you have Skype or whatever software you are using to make your call, simply click on any of the Airlines below and pick an International Office.
One thing to keep a look out for, is that some of the Airline Phone Numbers charge you to call them. This seems primarily the case in Europe.
If the International Office you pick does charge you an additional fee, it will be reflected next to the phone number similar to the example I pulled for AA’s UK Office below.
In that event, simply call another office.
Most of the Airlines do show the times their International Offices are open. So double check to make sure the office is open before you call.
If you aren’t sure, you can use this site and it will tell you the current time at the city you are trying to call. The iPhone also has a World Clock that you can use.
When dialing an International Phone Number on Skype or any phone, you have to enter the Plus Sign (+) and then the Country Code before the actual phone number.
The Country Code is typically not provided on the Airline’s website because they figure you are calling from within the Country in the first place.
If you don’t know the Country Code of the International Office you are calling, you can use this free site and it will give you the exact code and format to input it.
So for example, when I called United’s UK Reservation Desk this Morning, in Skype I entered:
+44 (Country Code) – 0845 (Area Code) – 607 – 6760 (Phone Number), so when I dialed it looked liked this +44-0845-607-6760
Some sites will say you have to put 011 before the Country Code to dial outside of the United States, but if you are calling from Skype, you don’t need to put that.
Cost / Benefit
The real beauty in this trick is how much time you can save!
Instead of waiting 45 minutes for a US based Agent, simply by calling Australia or the UK, you can get through in a matter of seconds and they might even route your call back to a US Agent.
Since the cost of Skype is so cheap, even if you call the UK and it takes a full 60 minutes to book your flight, at 2.3 cents a minute, the cost of your call would be a whopping $1.38.
I don’t know about you, but for $1.38, I think that is a steal given the alternative of waiting on the phone for hours!
Honestly I am surprised that this kind of “Priority Phone Center Queueing” or isn’t a benefit they have rolled out on any Airline Credit Cards.
Anyways hopefully this little trick helps everyone avoid the long wait times if you ever find yourself in the unfortunate circumstance where you have to call into a Airline Call Center.
Also if anyone has any Elite Phone Numbers they would like to share and cause another small uproar, feel free to leave a comment ; )