Why Are Airline Hold Times So Long?

There are a few different compounding reasons why you’ll have to wait a long time to talk to an airline reservations agent. First of all, the airlines have a reduced workforce due to the pandemic. Several companies have promised to ramp up hiring, but it seems like the airlines continue to be short staffed and unable to handle the volume of calls they are getting in a timely manner.

Flight cancellations, schedule changes, and differing entry requirements for international travel are also major reasons the airlines are getting inundated with calls from passengers who need to cancel or rebook their travel plans. This has all resulted in the perfect storm of abnormally long wait times when trying to call the airline’s customer service number.

How to Text Your Airline for Customer Service

Man texting on smartphone in front of his laptop

If you don’t want to wait on hold for hours and are not getting an option to receive a call back, many airlines now allow you to chat with agents via text to take care of anything that you might not be able to take care of on your own online. It will be easiest to access these chat features by downloading the airline’s app, but it may also be possible to simply follow a link to enter a text thread with an airline agent on the other end.

Wait times may still be long, but it is usually significantly shorter than waiting on hold over the phone. Plus, you can simply follow the prompts to get to an agent, text your inquiry in detail, and go about your business while you wait for a response. Here’s how to contact the following airlines via text.

Alaska Airlines

You can contact Alaska Airlines by texting 82008. If your request requires a credit card payment, Alaska says you should call instead, but you may be able to take care of simple requests or questions via text or set up changes or cancel reservations using the text feature before calling to apply any credit card payments.

Related: 7 Reasons Why Anchorage is the Best Base for Your Dream Alaska Trip

American Airlines

First, download the American Airlines app and log in to your account. Once you are logged in, swipe up for more options>choose “Contact American”>then choose “Chat with us”. Note that this option will only be available when you are logged in to your AAdvantage account.

You’ll then have to answer a few automatic questions before you’ll be able to chat with a human agent. The system will first try to solve your inquiry with an auto-response. Simply choose the option for “My question has not been answered” to eventually get connected with an agent.

American’s chat feature also states that it does not currently support credit card transactions so you will need to eventually call to make any payments.

Related: How to Use Avios for Cheap American Airlines Flights


For iPhone users, the easiest way to open up a text thread with Delta is to open its app>click on the “more” icon in the bottom right corner>scroll to the bottom and choose the “Message Us” option. You can also find this link on the Delta website if you have the messages app on your computer. By tapping/clicking on the “Message Us” link, you’ll be brought to your messages app and will be able to text Delta as if they were a contact on your phone.

You’ll then answer a few automatic questions so the system can gather your basic information. It will first try to lead you to links on its website that may answer your inquiry. But if you’d like to text with a human agent, just make sure to answer “No” when it asks “Did that answer your question?” And then you can choose to connect with a representative.

The great thing about chatting with Delta using Apple Business Chat is that you’ll be able to settle any payments with a credit card directly through a secure link that the agent can send via the chat. This is now my go-to way to contact Delta when I need to make changes that require an agent’s assistance. The agents I get via chat tend to be experienced and I can lay out all of the details in text for clarity.

Related: The 6 Best Flight Search Sites

Hawaiian Airlines

You can contact Hawaiian Airlines by texting 38285 between the hours of 5:00 am and 11:00 pm Hawaiian Time. Hawaiian also has a live chat feature in its app or on its website where agents are available 24 hours a day, but you may need to keep refreshing the page to get a link to the chat if agents are currently busy. 


On its contact us page, you’ll find links to chat with JetBlue via text message whether you use an Apple iOS device via Apple Business Chat or you use an Android mobile device via Google Business Messenger. These links will bring you to your messaging app and allow you to chat with an agent.

Like others, you’ll have to answer a few bot questions at first. To reach a human agent, make sure to answer “No” when asked if your question was answered and then you’ll be asked to verify your identity through a form.


Southwest requires you to download its app and log in with your Rapid Rewards account to access Live Chat. Representatives are available between the hours of 6:00 am and 8:00 pm Central Time. After answering a few automatic questions, you’ll be able to hold for a live agent if you start your chat within these hours. At this time, payment cannot be accepted through Live Chat.

Related: 11 Tips for Flying Southwest

Spirit Airlines

Text Spirit at 48763 with any questions. If you’re out of the country, and/or prefer to use WhatsApp, you can text Spirit directly at +18557283555. You’ll be prompted to answer a few multiple-choice questions and then be able to text a free form question for an agent to answer when they are able.


To text with a United representative, it’s easiest to use its app and log in to your United Mileage Plus account. From there, tap on “more” in the bottom right corner>then tap contact us. You can then either click on “Message us” to chat with an agent directly in the app or you can click to call the 800-864-8331 number where it will give you the option to message United through your phone’s messaging app.

It’s also possible to start a text thread with United by first calling reservations at 1-800-864-8331 and then after a few questions the bot may ask if you’d like to be sent a text message with a link to start a text message thread rather than wait on hold. As with the others, just answer a few initial questions until you get an option to chat with an agent.

I found that getting an agent through the United app was incredibly fast and was able to confirm with the agent that United agents are able to process credit card payments through a secure link when chatting via text. And it’s available for both Apple and Android users.

Related: The 8 Cheapest Places to Fly This Fall

Use Social Media to Contact Airlines

Woman using social media on phone in one hand and holding a mug in the other hand

Another popular way to get quicker customer service from airlines is to contact the airline through social media channels such as Twitter or Facebook messenger. If your airline doesn’t have a live chat feature or a text messaging option, you can try sending a direct message to the appropriate handle on one of these channels for customer service inquiries.

Call an International Number

If you absolutely need to talk to an agent over the phone to handle your customer service request, you can also try calling an airline’s call center in another country. Sometimes, these call centers will be much less busy than the main U.S. call centers and you may experience shorter hold times.

Of course, you’ll want to check your phone’s international calling plan to know how much it will cost to call another country. If your cell phone plan has high rates, consider using Google Voice or Skype to call, which usually have cheap international calling rates.

For a list of international call center phone numbers and other ways to contact the airline via social media or other methods, follow these links to your airline’s “contact us” page.

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