Airline Customer Service during Hurricane Irene: Winners and Losers

Most Helpful Airlines during Irene Delays/Cancellations

If your flight was cancelled or delayed due to Hurricane Irene as it tore up the northeastern U.S., you no doubt experienced the exquisite frustration of trying to contact your airline about your flight options. Now, an independent company called STELLAService, which rates online customer service, has released the results of its attempts to contact airlines during the mighty storm.

Methodology: On August 26, an average of eight calls were placed to each airline during traditional business hours; that same day, 12 tweets were directed to each airline between noon and midnight. You may or may not consider that enough of a sampling, but here are the results:

US Airways Responds to Phone Calls Fast

When it came to phone calls, at least those eight placed by the the rating company’s researchers, US Airways was a star. It kept its customers on hold for the least amount of time. Here are the top three airline response times:

Airline Average On-hold Phone Time

  • US Airways: 2 minutes, 38 seconds
  • Southwest: 8 minutes, 10 seconds
  • Continental: 8 minutes, 15 seconds

I have been on hold with airlines on non-emergency situation calls a heck of a lot longer than these times, so this is nice to see. Also, that these particular airlines did well is not especially surprising as I expected those airlines with more northeast exposure to have greater difficulty accommodating all their callers; I would include in this group New York-based JetBlue, Delta, American for its New York City flights and Continental for its hub at Newark airport.

Delta Responds to Tweets Fast

For years now, I’ve been telling flyers to follow your airline on Twitter (and I welcome all followers of @rickseaney); the reason is, airlines typically respond quickly to tweets about problems and this proved to be the case during Hurricane Irene. Here are the top three responders:

Airlines Twitter Average Response Time

  • Delta: Responded to 100% of tweets within 14 minutes
  • JetBlue: Responded to 83% of tweets within 11 minutes
  • Frontier: Responded to 100% of tweets within 4 hours and 4 minutes

Worst Response: Which Airlines Kept Passengers Waiting

While Delta performed beautifully on Twitter, it seemingly took them a little longer to answer the phones (again, according to this survey); Delta callers were kept on-hold an average of nearly 34 minutes, while America kept them waiting a little over an hour-and-a-half. Again, for a major emergency situation, with literally thousands of people calling in at the same time, I don’t think this is all that terrible. Annoying, yes, but not end-of-the-world terrible.

Did any of the airlines keep you waiting? We’d love to hear your story. Tell us on Facebook.

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Published: August 30, 2011