Why do airlines have such long hold times? How can I avoid them?

Most of us have had to call a major airline recent enough to remember the sinking feeling when we hear the hold time from the robotic voice on the other end. You sigh, put your phone on speaker or pop in your headphones and just accept it OR you hang up in frustration. Both are entirely valid responses. 

In this moment we’ve all asked ourselves the question, why are hold times so long? There are many reasons, but a few specific ones worth noting. Let’s shed some light to understand what our friends in the airline industry are going through.

Fewer Trained Staff

We’ve all seen the headlines, touting labor shortages around the country, and airlines are no stranger to this. While the whole industry is on the road to recovery, the air side is a unique one in that there are great amounts of information customer service reps need to be trained on; which takes time. Due to this, each phone call will likely take a bit longer as the new team members learn the ropes and become more comfortable with the countless rules in their field. 

Our partners will get there, we’re happy to be patient as they recover.

Cancellations/ Schedule Changes in Greater Numbers

Slightly stemming from the previous point, with larger numbers of cancellations and schedule changes comes more individuals who need to call in for assistance. Sometimes your newly suggested flights are acceptable which can be taken care of online on your own. 

Other instances though, when you’re delayed by days or just all together cancelled, you need to enlist the help of experts. If a whole flight is cancelled, that means 200+ people may be looking for assistance, and with hundreds of those taking place you can quickly see how the phone lines get busy.

Pend up Demand

With the above two points, coupled along with the fact that more people are now travelling again, for business and leisure alike, this results in simply more people needing assistance than in the past year and a half. Travellers hitting the road again, or for the first time, have more questions than before because, well, things look much different now. 

Now for the big question, how can you avoid these long hold times? While it’s something we’ve all come to accept as a part of the travel world in the near future, there are a few tactics you can use.

Schedule a Call Back 

Book it and continue on with your day; most airlines allow you to schedule these directly on their website. This service is a great way to ensure your time is being used effectively. Rather than listening to the repetitive hold music/ messages, you can carry on as usual and focus on important tasks at hand. While this won’t result in an immediate response from the airline, call back times vary by carrier, you can know that you have a place in line. 

Self-Service Tools Online

Depending on the nature of your needs, there are great resources to use online such as the Chat feature. Which can assist you in a number of ways, including basic changes to your flight, providing additional details and more. Keeping in mind, of course, that all technology has limitations so situations where payment is needed will need to be carried out with a representative.

Call the Priority Line

Having status brings more perks than just lounge access and priority boarding. Depending on the level you hold with the airlines, you are able to connect with them through an alternate Priority Line number which typically has shorter wait times and more direct access to a representative. 

Use an Expert

Our number one suggestion in avoiding long hold times is using an expert like Elite Travel –we take care of everything for you behind the scenes! No waiting on hold, going back and forth with an airline customer service rep – you simply call or email us and continue on with your day while we get to work. Often being able to access your airline tickets from the backend of our system, our team can typically adjust your travels far quicker than direct with the supplier. In certain instances, we’ll utilize our personal industry lines to adjust your tickets with our own dedicated representatives.


At the end of the day, regardless of where you’re going or how you’re getting there all travel plans will require a little more patience and flexibility. Having a team of experts behind you when things don’t go to plan is the peace of mind you need on your next business trip. 

Interested in learning more about how Elite Travel can enhance your program? Let’s get started!

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