How To Get Through To An Airline Call Center During A Weather Crisis

So in case you haven’t been following me on Facebook and Twitter, I have been in New York City this weekend. Unfortunately I booked my flight for free using British Airways Avios, and there wasn’t any availability to come back on Sunday when I originally booked the ticket. So I decided to stay an extra day and leave Monday morning. I mean it is only another 12 hours, what could go wrong…

Needless to say, that turned out to be a dumb decision as all the flights out of New York City have been canceled until Wednesday!

I tried to switch to an earlier flight that came back today but not surprisingly, so was everyone else. Since Hurricane Sandy isn’t expected to make landfall until Monday Evening, I was holding out hope that my flight would not be canceled since it is Monday Morning but after coming back from dinner this evening, I saw on that all flights until Wednesday had been canceled!

Typically when flights get canceled in mass, you have to be on the ball and get re-booked ASAP or you will get bumped to the back of the line. In my case, I knew flights would start again on Wednesday, so I wanted to make sure I was on one of those flights.

Normally this wouldn’t be a huge issue and I would just re-book my flight online, but because I had booked my Award Ticket with Avios, I had to call into American Airlines Call Center to make any changes. Again this would not be an issue, but because of the mass cancellations, everyone was calling in to change their tickets.

Yesterday after watching the news, before all the flights were canceled, I decided to be proactive and call American Airlines Call Center to see if I could be rebooked for today. It took me over 30 minutes to get through to speak to someone. I suspect with tonight’s mass cancellations, that the wait to speak to someone could easily be 1 to 2 hours.

In a situation where literally every second counts because everyone and their mother are trying to get on the first flight out of town, I didn’t want to risk spending 1 – 2 hours waiting on the phone while the few remaining seats for flights on Wednesday filled up.

I have talked about this a while ago but since there is currently a weather crisis going on, I thought I’d share it again. The easy trick to get through to Airline Call Centers during long wait times is to simply call their Call Center in another country where they aren’t busy.

Many people either don’t think of this as an option or shy away from it because of International Calling Fees, but with Skype, you can make calls to almost anywhere in the world for around 1 – 2 cents a minute. Even better, Skype has an iPhone app, so you can even call while on the go or when you aren’t in front of a computer.

So in my case, instead of calling the American Airlines US Call Center which was sure to be a zoo, I simply tried some other English speaking Call Centers around the World. Most are open 24 hours!

One thing to remember when dialing internaitonal numbers, is that you have to add the + and country code, which is not shown below. To find the country code, just google it. More information about this can be found in my old post.

List Of All AA Call Centers Around The World

I first tried AA’s Australian office but for some reason that number wasn’t connecting. I switched to the New Zealand office but spent 10 Minutes waiting so I hung up. Next I tried the United Kingdom, but they have some weird tariffs, so it was showing that it would cost 50 cents a minute. Finally, I tried Ireland and within 3 minutes I was talking to an English speaking Irish Women.

I simply explained to her the situation, and that I wanted to be re-booked on the earliest flight. I had up on my Macbook, so I told her which flight I wanted. Without even asking me why I was calling the Irish Call Center, she re-booked my flight and sent me an email confirmation. All in all, it took about 10 minutes including the 3 minute wait.

So even though it took me a few tries to get a Call Center to pick up, all in all, I spent maybe 20 minutes finding a Call Center, waiting for someone to pick up, and getting my ticket changed.

Had I called the US Call Center, it might have taken 2 or more hours to get through!

For the convenience of not having to spend 2 hours on the phone, it cost me only 23 cents to call Ireland for 10 minutes!

Anyways this little trick works with all major US Airlines (not just AA) and don’t be afraid to use it only in emergencies. Feel free to use it anytime you need to call in to the Airlines.

For example, if you ever call in to United, you are well aware they outsource a lot of the calls to Asia. If you have a complicated itinerary and want to speak to a native English speaker, simply call the Airline’s office in Australia or the UK.

Anyways, I hope that helps any of you that are stranded due to Hurricane Sandy.

Although it is annoying being stuck inside for 2 days, as long as the power and internet don’t go down, it shouldn’t be too terrible. If you want an anecdote on how twenty-something New Yorkers approach an impending natural disaster, one of my friend’s friends went out to buy supplies and only came back with beer. Another friend decided that there was no need for groceries when you could just go to Subway and buy 9 footlong sandwiches for $60. Not even a joke…

I guess if there is a silver lining to this situation, it is that I have quite a few awesome posts I want to write about in the coming days, so this Hurricane at a minimum might force me to do just that since I won’t have any other distractions. Although if the power goes out, then all bets are off…

Anyways to everyone in New York and the East Coast area, stay safe and dry.


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