The airline Customer Service Center Counter (CSC) is the last place that most passengers want to visit when going through an airport. Passengers who stop at the CSC are rarely in a good mood. It is likely that something has gone wrong with the travel day. If you have missed a flight, are dealing with an extended delay, or the airline has made a mistake with your reservation you will undoubtedly be sent to the CSC.
A stop at the CSC will likely help to resolve your issue, but the resolution will not always seem like the best option. In some cases, it will feel like you have been placed in a futile situation by an airline who is unwilling to assist you in any way, only offering bad choices and little or no compensation.
Your time at the CSC may start out bad and end up feeling worse. I absolutely understand what it is like to be stonewalled by an airline.
Most airline Customer Service Agents (CSA) are basically conditioned to send any customer with a problem to the CSC regardless of the issue. I’ve seen some agents refuse to answer the most basic questions and even ignore passengers standing in front of them. This is not right, it’s horrible customer service, and the airline does not expect their employees to treat customers like that, but it has become a reality that is unlikely to change in the industry. If you’ve never had a customer service issue with an airline then you are lucky. If you have had to deal with an issue during travel, then odds are you felt like you were treated poorly.
Thankfully, there are a few things that you can do to speed up your customer service process and hopefully avoid the chaos of airline CSCs altogether. You just need to know what to ask for, and have a plan for what you want, and some backup options if plan A has not worked out.
The CSC is a great place to stop if there is no line. It can a be a good location to get airline assistance, but that is not always the case, especially when the airline is dealing with multiple delays and cancellations. Such as in a severe weather event.
I’m sure you’ve seen lines for airline CSCs. They are long and seemingly do not move. You could literally spend several hours waiting for help in one of these lines. When you wait, not only do you lose that time, you may also lose options. Odds are that customers ahead of you looking for the same things you want. Flight availability will dwindle as the day goes on and more customers go through that line.
Here are some things to do before you go stand in the long line of sorrow, you may be able to avoid contact with any airline personnel if you desire:
Use The APP
If you find yourself in a flight dilemma, make sure you have downloaded the airline APP on your phone. The airlines have actually invested quite a bit of money over the years in creating better mobile technology. Along with basic flight information many airline APPs also allow passengers to make changes to their reservations, upgrade seats, and book new flights when the passenger has missed their original booking.
In today’s connected world there are few things that the airline fears more than having a negative story go viral. Major airlines have teams of people monitoring Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram looking for any negative comments and distressed passengers who are posting about the airline. If you find yourself in a tough situation in an airport, post at the airline on Twitter or Facebook. Don’t be surprised when you get a response! The person tweeting back at you may be able to solve your problem on the spot. I’ve seen airlines take care of rebooking, seat changes, and even email compensation through Twitter conversations. Social media really works for distressed passengers.
Call the Airline
If you don’t want to deal with social media then the airlines still have representatives that can be contacted by phone. You should be able to get any reservations issues corrected via a phone call. Just know that you may end up on hold for a while waiting to speak with someone. Check the airline website or do an internet search for the phone number.
Seek Out a Lone Agent
It’s true that most airline agents working the gates will probably direct you to a CSC to get assistance, but there are still some great airline employees out there who are willing to assist a customer on the spot. If you see an airline agent standing by a computer alone, especially at a gate, it doesn’t hurt to ask them for help. You might get a great person that is willing to help you.
If you do approach a lone agent at a gate it helps to be polite. Don’t roll up with a head of steam. You may be angry, but venting your frustration will make that person feel less inclined to assist you. Be friendly, ask direct questions, and have a general plan of action. If you are able to lay out your problem quickly and are decisive you could get help quickly and avoid a ridiculous wait at a CSC queue.
Anywhere But CSC
Go to another part of the airport to look for help, especially if you are in a large airport with many flights. Head to the check-in lobby, baggage claim areas, ticketing desks, and gates. Anywhere that the airline has customer service staff besides a CSC is likely to have someone that can help you out, and there will probably be little to no lines away from the service centers.
If there is one thing I’ve learned from working with passengers for over 15 years it is people love to stand in lines. If there is a line, then hordes of people will queue up right behind it. Don’t follow everyone else. Look for help elsewhere!
I’ve seen major airline drama from both sides of the counter. It’s a stressful situation regardless of what side you are on. Getting out of line and finding help through another avenue than a Customer Service Center counter can save you some time and get you on your way faster. Make sure you look at a line alternative the next time you need some help from the airline. You might be surprised by an easy experience.
Have you ever had to deal with airline customer service centers or had luck using alternate means to solve your travel issues? I'd love to hear about your experiences! If you have any other airline or travel issues on your mind I would love to hear about them in the comment section below.
All images are from my personal collection and were taken by me.