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Is there any advantage to waiting at that long line to see an agent?

Is there any advantage to waiting at that long line to see an agent?

Old Oct 23, 09, 3:17 pm
  #1  
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Is there any advantage to waiting at that long line to see an agent?

Ok, this is a question that's been in the back of my mind that I have to ask since it's been bothering me.

When I'm at O'Hare and United Airlines does one of it's major cancellation things, there's always this huge line that forums in front of this main agent desk where there's only 3 agents there. When something like that usually happens to me, I usually walk around until I find a booth with a lonely agent or just call United's main number.

With so many people waiting in that huge line, I've been wondering to myself. Is there some type of advantage to waiting there? It always feels like they know something I don't. Do the people in that line share interesting stories with each other?

I'm not sure why but when there's a line that forums, it seems like everyone else wants to go to that line. The bigger the line, the better.
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Old Oct 23, 09, 3:30 pm
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They are probably non-elites for whom the agent would provide better service than United's low end contracted call center for non-elites (which probably has a wait time longer than the line at the agent during typical ORD delays). Also, as non-elites, they probably don't know any alternative ways to attempt to get service besides standing in the first line that they find.
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Old Oct 23, 09, 3:34 pm
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I have to admit, I don't get it either. I've never gotten in those long lines...if they have an advantage, I don't know what it is.

Even thinking about the worst case: flying a legacy carrier with no status, stuck in one of their hubs... I think I'd immediately jump on the phone. If it's an ORD blizzard, you aren't getting through, but if it's a mechanical or a less-extreme (systemwide) problem, you still might.

While waiting on hold, I'd figure out the next flight I hope to catch - if it's soon, I'd go to that gate. I'd also keep an eye out for a lonely GA - although that's more for the case of a mechanical than an ORD blizzard.

Depending on the airline, I'd also keep an eye out for a kiosk - those can usually handle some basic irrops support if your flight has been officially canceled.

Finally, if all else fails, I'd probably exit security and return to the main line outside. It would depend on the flight I hoped to catch and exactly *how* bad that line for airside customer service was.
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Old Oct 23, 09, 4:40 pm
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Once my friend and I were flying IAH-ORD-PHL on UA, and there was weather in ORD, and our flight to PHL was cancelled. Sure enough, a GINORMOUS line formed. We decided to seek out someone less busy, who got me confirmed on a US Airways flight out the next morning, and put him on standby (?) for the flight even though there were seats available.

So, we then went down to the US Airways baggage office to sort it out, and thankfully, the nice lady there used to work in ticketing, and changed my friend's reservation to confirmed.
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Old Oct 23, 09, 4:45 pm
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I was at SAN last year flying SAN-PHX when my US flight canceled. Immediately a 70+ person line formed in front of the sole gate agent. I motioned to my friend and we quietly slipped down the escalator back to the ticket desk where there was a mere one person ahead of us.

We were rebooked SAN-LAS-PHX on the last connection of the night and I'm sure some people at the back of that line had to go the next day.
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Old Oct 23, 09, 5:15 pm
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Originally Posted by tjl View Post
They are probably non-elites for whom the agent would provide better service than United's low end contracted call center for non-elites (which probably has a wait time longer than the line at the agent during typical ORD delays).
The desk agents may or may not provide better service, but the hold time on the phone is much shorter than the 1-2 hour wait in those lines. I've had to deal with the offshore call center a number of times for irrops rebooking, and it's never taken me more than about 15 minutes on the phone to get fully rebooked. It helps that I look up alternative flights on the departure monitors while I'm on the phone, so I can offer those alternatives to the phone agent... for the general public, who may need hand-holding, a desk agent may be better, but the phone agents should be fine. The best tactic is to get in line and be on the phone while in line.
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Old Oct 23, 09, 8:34 pm
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For UA, even with the 1K desk, I always look up every alternative I can think of as I'm going through the process of connecting to a phone agent. Even though those are generally good, experienced agents, they may not have the entire permutation of Star Alliance possibilities to *my* destination memorized.

I got lucky at ORD last year. I had misconnected - very late on a snowy night, prepared to spend the night. Everything I could think of had departed or had canceled already. Just as I was about to give up, I noticed a tail off in the distance - that of an SAS Airbus. I took a guess: I asked the agent any way to get on that Airbus and route through wherever it was headed. Sure enough - it had seats available (last row of coach!) and departed Chicago at midnight for CPH. I made it to my destination 5 hours late instead of 24.
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Old Oct 26, 09, 11:13 pm
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The last time -- and I do mean the LAST time -- I flew UA was one of the times when their dispatch computers crashed. I was on an award ticket (miles flown on LH), and have zero status with UA. I made a beeline for the desk the instant my flight was canceled, while dialing the call center on my cell phone.

When I got through to the call center, their computer had "for your convenience" automatically rebooked me for 3PM the next day -- 27 hours later. The call center person got me on a flight 3 hours later that afternoon, and then told me to go claim my bags downstairs at ORD and recheck.

By then I was within 20 minutes of the front of the line, and with nothing better to do I waited it out. The agent verified that I had been fed s*** about my baggage, and gave me an E+ exit row seat.

What I didn't tell her was that I had used the 20 minutes to call AA and have them hold an award seat for me on their flight 4 hours later -- just in case UA's computers never came up. I didn't cancel that hold till UA pushed back.
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Old Oct 27, 09, 10:41 am
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Originally Posted by BeeWayAir View Post
I usually walk around until I find a booth with a lonely agent
This is a pretty rare beast to sight these days... Rarely if ever do a find a counter that's staffed that isn't overwhelmed?
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Old Oct 28, 09, 6:50 pm
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There are advantages to both. I would first immediately call and try to get rebooked: seats may go while you wait in line if you don't call. As far as an agent, they can check for delayed flights, see if they are booked, how many passengers are checked in and how long a sb list is.
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Old Oct 29, 09, 7:57 am
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Run, don't walk to the front counter. try that first. some airlines also allow the matrons to do rebooking in their lounge
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Old Oct 30, 09, 8:09 pm
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Originally Posted by pinniped View Post
Finally, if all else fails, I'd probably exit security and return to the main line outside. It would depend on the flight I hoped to catch and exactly *how* bad that line for airside customer service was.
I tried this once in PBI, whe there was an MX on my flight to EWR. The airline flew a bigger plane from FLL that was not full. There was enough room to accommodate all those whom EWR was their final destination. Anyway, there was long line at the gate, so I went to the check-in line. Unfortunately, that agent was busy with pax who needed hotels, as well as flights, so the line did not move that quickly.

Another time, in MIA, I had boarded a plane, and had struck up a conversation with the attractive woman in my row. Due to IRROPS, we were all deplaned, and had to wait on line for our new flight. I waited on the long line with this woman I had just met. When we got to the agent, we were still talking, and the agent asked, "Are you traveling together"? I wanted to say yes, but was not sure if it was appropriate. Imagine my delight when my new friend solved my dilemma by quickly answering "Yes!" Definitely an advantage to waiting on the line that time.
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Old Oct 31, 09, 3:01 am
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Originally Posted by JohnneeO View Post
I tried this once in PBI, whe there was an MX on my flight to EWR. The airline flew a bigger plane from FLL that was not full. There was enough room to accommodate all those whom EWR was their final destination. Anyway, there was long line at the gate, so I went to the check-in line. Unfortunately, that agent was busy with pax who needed hotels, as well as flights, so the line did not move that quickly.

Another time, in MIA, I had boarded a plane, and had struck up a conversation with the attractive woman in my row. Due to IRROPS, we were all deplaned, and had to wait on line for our new flight. I waited on the long line with this woman I had just met. When we got to the agent, we were still talking, and the agent asked, "Are you traveling together"? I wanted to say yes, but was not sure if it was appropriate. Imagine my delight when my new friend solved my dilemma by quickly answering "Yes!" Definitely an advantage to waiting on the line that time.
Nice

Wondering if she was hoping some of your travel smarts would rub off on her
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Old Nov 1, 09, 4:46 am
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Once I was stuck in Athens airport (snowstorm!!).

All the flights were cancelled until further notice.

You can imagine the very long lines in front of check-in/ticket desks.

There was such a mess in the whole airport that I decided to call the AF Platinum service, which found me a flight on Olympic Airways the next day.

The lady told me that I need to withdraw the ticket at the AF ticket office, as it is a paper ticket with an other airline, but I can do it when the ticket office won't be that busy.
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Old Nov 1, 09, 8:31 am
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Originally Posted by slawecki View Post
Some airlines also allow the matrons to do rebooking in their lounge
Although I wouldn't call them matrons, the lounge attendants have saved us more than once! Once on a misconnect from AA to BA in LHR the gate agents kept ping-ponging us back and forth between the 2 airlines, each saying the other would issue a BP. We retreated to the BA lounge, where it was easily resolved (too bad we ended up aith a 7-hour layover). Most recently, our DL flight from MCI-JFK was diverted to CVG and there were 2 agents to re-book everyone. One agent was immediately occupied by a couple with a connection in ZRH to somewhere in Africa. Pulled out the PriorityPass and found the nearest DL club (unfortunately, not part of PP anymore). The lady there was wonderful. They'd trashed the aisle seat assignment from JFK-EDI that I'd begged and peaded for earlier (we have no DL status) but she got us into aisle seats.

I did end up at a disadvantage bypassing a line in DTW when they wanted everyone who had no prayer of getting out that night to step aside and wait for them to rebook the others. I probably missed getting a breakfast and dinner voucher, but got my rebooking info on the phone as I hiked to the DTW Westin and got settled in my room earlier. Best I could do under difficult circumstances.

Short answer: the airline's lounge if it's an option, otherwise hedge my bets by waiting in line and calling on the phone.

Last edited by Athena53; Nov 1, 09 at 3:16 pm
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