It has been over a year since I last handed out a Cranky Jackass Award, and that’s by design. My standards have really ratcheted up since the early days when I would pass them out for lesser transgressions. But last week, I discovered a change worthy of the award. Frontier has eliminated all phone support, and for that, it deserves a Cranky Jackass Award, without question.
Up until a little over a week ago, Frontier had an outsourced call center that could be reached by calling a local number, so Frontier could avoid those toll-free charges. This isn’t really an issue since nobody should be paying for long distance these days, but naturally Frontier did do it in a shady way, using (801) 401-9001. That area code is actually in Utah, but it’s close enough in digits to 800 make it look possibly toll-free. I’m surprised the airline didn’t go with a 900 or 976 number and make travelers pay to call. (Do those still exist?)
Now, if you call any number related to Frontier, you’ll get a recording saying that phone support is gone and you should use other channels. Here’s what a Frontier spokesperson told me:
Our Customer Care function recently transitioned to fully digital communications, which enables us to ensure our customers get the information they need as expeditiously and efficiently as possible. We have found that most customers prefer communicating via digital channels. Customers can visit our website and interact initially with a chatbot which provides answers to common questions. If live agent support is needed, we have live chat available 24 hours a day / 7 days a week. Customers may also chat with us via common social media channels and Whatsapp.
Chat and email are listed on the support page, but I don’t even see the other methods mentioned as options, so I suppose you just have to guess and hope.
I was curious to see just how good this chat option would be, so I made up a question, asking if the Works could be added after ticket purchase. (I knew the answer, it can’t, but that wasn’t the point.) After opening the chat window, I was faced with getting beyond the useless chatbot. My first half-hearted attempt failed.
So I asked my question, and this time it actually tried to help… but it failed miserably.
So, I said it wasn’t helpful and that’s when the actual human got unlocked. I gave a fake name and didn’t provide a confirmation number… and I waited for a response.
And then, it gave me the bad news.
My message is next in line but there are long waits? That does not compute. And there’s no way it was true. Still, it took me right around 10 minutes before Jemima joined the chat.
It was not a quick moment at all. Instead, it took about another 10 minutes while I assume Jemima was helping 100 other chats. She finally got back to me with the right info.
Obviously this was not worth chatting to get the answer since this was just a throwaway question, but how long would it take if I had a problem with a reservation? And it sounds like I got off lucky. The person at Cranky Concierge who discovered the death of the phone number couldn’t get anyone on the other end of chat. He left his computer on for several hours before giving up.
It’s efficient for Frontier… and I’m sure it’s cheaper… but it’s not good for customers who need quicker responses. And sometimes, phone support is the best way to go. Things can get lost in text-based conversations, especially when they are complex issues.
I know what you’re saying… “but, but Breeze doesn’t have a phone number, so why is this different?” First off, I don’t like that Breeze has no phone number either, but at least Breeze was designed to have no phone number. If you book Breeze, you are booking direct. The airline has chat and contact information along the path as needed. It’s not ideal, but it’s not Cranky Jackass-worthy. I’ll just wave my finger angrily.
Frontier is an *ahem* more complicated animal. It sells connections unlike Breeze, so missed connections, lost bags, etc are much more of a reality. It also sells its tickets through multiple channels, so it’s not just consumer support but also travel partner support that could benefit from phone support. And what does Frontier say about that?
This is absolutely wrong to call that phone number toll free, but it also doesn’t work anymore. And that fax number… I’ll assume it doesn’t work either, but also, pretty funny they say not to give it to customers even though it’s just on a public webpage that came up in my Google search. Anyway, it makes me want to do this…
Photo via ChtiTux/CC SA-3.0
I can absolutely understand wanting to push more people to digital channels. It is more efficient to have one person handling multiple different clients at the same time. But ultimately there are people who strongly prefer the phone, and there are some issues that are complex enough that a chat just won’t work as well, especially if there are long delays between responses. There are ways to push people toward using digital channels while still keeping the phone number alive for those who need it. Frontier decided to go with the stick instead of the carrot, however.
Enjoy that Cranky Jackass Award, Frontier. And maybe reconsider your decision.
On the bright side, you got your answer faster than if you had called Delta reservations which will have you on hold for an hour still.
That gives me flashbacks to literally being on hold for hours with Delta in 2020. On the plus last year I tried their chat agent system to fix my reservation after a schedule change made a ridiculous automatic itinerary and was able to get it fixed pretty quickly, though the first agent did have to pass it up the chain to get the change to go through for the specific flights I wanted. I can’t remember how much of a chat bot it had but it got me queued for a real agent very quickly
I once changed a flight on Delta to change my connecting city to avoid potential weather via Twitter. They knew who I was because, for some reason, I’d entered my Twitter handle into my SkyMiles account.
Call me crazy, but I sure hope that Frontier’s senior management have a few alternative (and as-yet-unused) phone numbers lined up for their office, cell, and home (if they still have landline phone service at home) phones, and know how to use the “Do Not Disturb” function on their cell phones…
I definitely wouldn’t encourage/condone it, but I expect that some frustrated pax will eventually be able to do enough sleuthing to dox Frontier management and contact them personally (or wake up their families in the middle of the night) a flight is cancelled and the pax can’t get the support they need.
Also, I give it about 2 days (if it hasn’t already happened already) for a politician to make a strong public statement calling out Frontier’s lack of phone support and/or to propose additional regulations to counter it, as doing so would be a good way for the politician to get on cable news on a slow news day.
Well put. I’m one of those who goes with the phone option every time. Screw this live chat bull crap.
Same here. I feel a little old saying it (though I was born in the 80s, so I’m not “that” old), but often dealing with a human is the fastest, easiest way to get things done, and sometimes replacing humans with technology doesn’t make things easier or better from a service side.
Another case in point: McDonald’s touch screen ordering kiosks. I can navigate them easily enough in the 3 or 4 times a year I go to McD’s, but that’s not the point. In a fraction of the time it takes me to use the kiosk, I can go to the counter, look a live human in the eye (gasp!) and have them punch in my order as I speak it.
That said, most of the airport check-in & boarding pass kiosks have very quick & easy interfaces (I often get mobile boarding passes, but prefer to have a paper backup as well), and are often quicker than having a ticket agent punch in my info, so IMHO it really comes down to how well the systems/processes are designed, and whether the goal is to actually add value to the consumer or merely reduce labor costs for the company.
Surprised Chuck Schumer hasn’t already done it.
I would expect that “politician” to be Chuck Shummer. Chuck just LOVES getting in front of that camera.
You can always fly someone else!
I don’t have a problem with it, in that you get what you pay for.
People want to pay K Mart prices for airfare? Expect K Mart service also.
I agree with your sentiment that bargain basement prices will come with bargain basement service. The informed consumer has likely avoided flying this airline for quite some time, already.
One caveat, however: for those who had already purchased flights, phone service was assumed/included. So for atleast a small segment, this further devalued their ticket because they didn’t book with this knowledge.
I am getting really tired of the “longer than normal wait” statement. When was the last time there is a normal wait? They should just be honest and say the long wait is the normal.
A large part of this is still insufficient IT. A lot seemingly simple things can’t be done online if something small is broken and customers had nonoption but picking up the phone. I had Breeze booked via CapitalOne and nothing can br done to that reservation becausr of that. I had JetBlue reservation that can’t be load up on their website or app after a schedule change. Rebooking after involuntary (schedule) changes almost always require a call as customers are not empowered to change to new options they want. The list goes on.
Similarly, “please listen to the following options as our options have recently changed”. How recent? Companies will leave that in their message for years. I have no idea if they were changed last week or three years ago.
I thoroughly agree with the anger over eliminating the telephone option. But, there is one small advantage to digital communication for some problems.
Unlike telephone support, digital gives you the opportunity to save your discussion, in case you get bad information. Consumer sites such as Elliott Advocacy always recommend saving your digital discussions, either through screenshots (which can be cumbersome, but still wise), or downloading the discussion thread, if offered. Then later, if it turns out you were led down the garden path, there is proof of the discussion and (bad) advice.
Still, the absence of a live person is infuriating. That said, I find the outsourced “Help Desks” are too often incapable of solving many problems. (And don’t get me started on the god-awful telephone connections with many of them. If I can have a crystal-clear connection with my friend in Hong Kong, why does my call to Citibank sound like a 1969 conversation with the moon?)
There has been a constant race to the bottom with airlines. Consumers complain and moan about it…then opt to save $40 and go with the cheap ass flight…and then complain because the service and the product suck.
Would they go to McDonalds and complain that there is not a waiter at their table?
This is just a personal peeve. People won’t spend extra for service or better product…then complain because the service or product are cheap.
On a personal note I am going find out a little more about this stuff this evening. I am flying Breeze from CHS to TPA, on a 220. It fit my schedule and I wanted to sample the product. I’ll let y’all know how it is if anyone wants.
I interacted with Breeze via text back in August of 2021 or so. It worked just fine. As long as everyone’s clear that there’s no safety valve to voice…and you can actually text support so you don’t have to keep a chat app open…it’s serviceable.
The last change I did with Delta was via their website chat. Was annoying that I had to keep the website open, but it worked well enough otherwise.
Penny wise but dollar foolish.
Not defending the airline, but is it honestly any better trying to call an airline when a 4+ hour phone wait is pretty common these days? You’re better off making any changes on your own or talking to an airport agent.
Shabby service by a shabby airline. Bill Franke…..’nuff said.
This is a terrible move by them. I completely understand pushing people towards chat but not eliminating the phone altogether. I’ve flown with them a lot this year and there have been some flight delays mostly out of their control and I would hear people all around me wining that they are never flying Frontier again. Frontier is in a can’t win camp where all they do is turn customers away when things go wrong rather than use them as opportunities to create loyal customers. If they had better communication in the first place it wouldn’t be as bad, even gate agents don’t know what’s happening most of the time. They took care of me well in 2021 when there were cancelations, sending me prompt large credits and rebooking me. Last week I had a 4 hour delay with bad communication and they sent me a $10 food voucher which didn’t even cover the beer I was drinking. There are only so many first-time customers that can be duped with bag fees, can’t grow without loyalty. They keep making penny smart dollar foolish moves and it will cost them in the end.
No problem. Frontier couldn’t pay me to fly them.