Service of Waiting

June 30th, 2022

Categories: Air Travel, Lines, Patience, Travel, Waiting

New Yorkers are used to waiting in lines

My dad had no patience and wouldn’t tolerate lines. If he had a restaurant reservation he demanded to be seated immediately. Cooling his heels at the bar was out of the question. He’d be so unhappy in today’s world not only on arrival at some watering holes but killing time on hold to speak with a human to sort out glitches with his phone, credit card or electric bill or to argue over coverage with a health or drug prescription insurance provider—even hanging around for an hour + for medical appointments.

Waiting for bagels for lunch in Manhattan

A couple from Indianapolis in their 20s, on line in front of me at Katz’s Deli last Sunday took it for granted that they’d wait at the airport on their trip home and were buying reinforcements. Their travel to NYC was delayed a few hours at the airport and three more on the plane before takeoff.

A flight attendant who’d written a post that is circulating on Facebook gave advice to today’s traveler. Drive if it would take seven or fewer hours to reach your destination she counseled. Book the earliest flight and never get the cheapest seat she warned. You have the best chance of taking off in the former instance and if nobody volunteers to deplane in the event of an overbooked flight, passengers with the cheapest tickets will be the ones excised.

In her Wall Street Journal article Dawn Gilbertson shared similar suggestions: “Download your airline’s mobile app, bookmark the website, follow them on Twitter or Facebook and put those telephone customer service numbers in your cellphone.” She reported :”American spokeswoman Rachel Warner said the airline gives priority to customers based on a variety of factors including proximity to day of travel, frequent flier membership and type of support needed.”


Image by Bilal EL-Daou from Pixabay 

In addition: “Mr. Hauenstein’s best piece of summer travel advice for travelers trying to reach an airline? “’Seek a digital answer first.’” Glen Hauenstein is president of Delta.

Gilbertson quoted the dreaded voice message for airline passengers: “Due to an earlier technical issue we’re receiving more calls than we typically do and are unable to take your call at this time.” Wait times for call backs at a major US airline ranged from an hour 14 minutes to an hour 42 minutes on a “relatively calm day.”

She wrote about a business traveler who couldn’t get the app at this airline to respond and the phone wait time was 8 hours. He needed to change his return flight when his meeting was cut short two days. Online chat wait was 1.5 hours. Next he couldn’t chose his seats and waited on the phone almost four hours on a Sunday morning and ended up driving 45 minutes to the airport to do literal face-time with someone at a ticket counter.

A California travel agent waited over three hours on a “key accounts” line to speak with someone at a prominent foreign airline wrote Gilbertson. The agent “blames the spike in travel volume combined with a flurry of flight issues stemming from staffing shortages, a scarcity of seats to rebook travelers on and other challenges across the industry. The number of people passing through TSA checkpoints on Sunday [June 26] was the highest since early 2020. Those numbers are only expected to increase as the July 4th holiday weekend kicks off this week.”

If you need to wait more than a few minutes for service or a seat, do you have effective ways of distracting and/or calming yourself?  Any tips to share with airline travelers to smooth their journeys?


Image by Lars Nissen from Pixabay

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9 Responses to “Service of Waiting”

  1. David Reich Said:

    Unfortunately, waiting has become the norm for all aspects of air travel.

    With calls, Delta gives you the option of having them call you back when an agent becomes available. It saves you from hanging on the phone listening to obnoxious music for hours. And they DO call you back.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    David,

    The frustrated businessman in Dawn Gilbertson’s article was awakened by a call-back at 1:30 AM. But what do you do if you need to get to the airport and don’t know whether or not to leave the hotel or home as you’ve not yet heard back?

    The airline SNAFUs are covered almost nightly on network news. Last night a pundit predicted they hoped to iron out the wrinkles by Thanksgiving. Staycations and business Zoom calls are looking better and better.

  3. TC Said:

    MY INTRO TO “HURRY UP AND WAIT” CAME WITH MIX OF HUMOR AND FRUSTRATION WHILE IN THE SERVICE. THIS WAS OFFSET BY ANOTHER SAYING: “DO IT IMMEDIATELY—IF NOT SOONER”. SEEMS LIKE LIFE IN THE DEPRESSION YEARS AND WAR TIME WAS BUILT AROUND “QUEUING UP” ( AS THE BRITS ALMOST BOASTED ). IDEA OF RESERVATIONS MUST HAVE COME POST WW2. OR MAYBE IT CONFLICTED WITH “PALM GREASING” OF MAITRE D.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    TC,

    I heard the same expression and experienced the same approach decades ago as an Air Force wife living in Turkey: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

    In Manhattan we’ve begun to again see lines of office workers outside of favorite takeout places at lunchtime. I always avoided these during the workweek. I’ve been in movie lines and lines to enter museums. The longest and slowest of the latter was outside Musée d’Orsay in Paris. Another memorable one was waiting to visit Anne Frank’s hiding place in Amsterdam where we heard so many languages spoken by other visitors.

  5. Hank Goldman Said:

    Thank you for the information.

  6. lucrezia Said:

    Technology helps. One merely puts on the speakerphone and goes about one’s business. Some really smart companies have a callback option, which promises contact at the time one would otherwise be inconvenienced. There are horror stories despite such amenities. It’s the price one pays for living in an advanced society.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    The newsman on WOR Radio’s morning show spent a day–until 1 in the morning when he gave up though he and his wife slept in that airport–trying to get to a wedding in NYC the next afternoon. He was in the south. He and the other passengers spent five hours in the plane on the ground. I don’t recall all of the backs and forths and hopes dashed but the airline also lost his luggage. There were no cars to rent–he would have driven. His car was at a different airport. Imagine if he was trying to reach an extremely sick relative. He didn’t make it to the wedding. He couldn’t get to NYC in time the next day either.

  8. Martha T Takayama Said:

    I remember fondly my surprise when I lived in Greece. No one ever waited for a table in a restaurant! If there wasn’t a table you just went elsewhere. The concept of waiting didn’t exist, yet dining was leisurely. I don’t really know why things functioned this way, but they did.
    Now at least in the U.S> all of any and every day that involves any communication with anyone not in the same room involves interminable, frustrating, fruitless waiting which often ends up with being passed to another and another pary only to be put on hold. The litany of explanations and the irritating apologies don’t help. The most upsetting of the interminable wait sessions are undoubtedly for medical care. And I live in Boston, the supposed world center of medical care. So many things can take place during these waits, and one can only speculate on how many result in irreparable damage!

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martha,

    I spent 2 hours at Verizon today. Was told to go home and I’d be called at 5:10 so as to activate a repaired new device. Something was faulty with the original. As I write it’s 8:47. My phone remains silent. Will I need to drag everything back to the store again tomorrow? Waste more time? I’m disheartened. My time is immaterial to them.

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