Airline call centres worldwide are struggling to cope with the current surge in demand, leaving many calls unanswered and others on hold for many hours.
Qantas customers, for example, have reported waiting well over 5-6 hours on hold – or simply being hung up on – over recent weeks. Qantas call centre staffing levels were already unacceptably low before the coronavirus crisis began, so things are particularly dire now. And to make matters worse, call centres in the Philippines are now closed due to a new lockdown in the Philippines designed to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
As Virgin Australia’s main call centre is located in the Philippines, Virgin Australia is now down to a skeleton operation of Australian-based staff.
Many other airlines and companies, including Qantas, also have call centres based in the Philippines.
Airlines are pleading with customers not to call them right now, unless they are booked to travel is in the next 2-7 days and are unable to make any changes that are required online. Furthermore, airlines are advising customers that made a booking via a travel agent to contact their travel agent.
A travel alert on the Virgin Australia website states:
Due to new government restrictions in the Philippines requiring home isolation, one of our call centres is currently unavailable. Please bear with us while our team here in Australia process your enquiry, and please only contact us if your booking is within the next 48 hours. We’re doing everything we can to assist you as quickly as possible.
If you have booked through a travel agent please liaise with them directly. If you are not travelling in the next 48 hours, please consider contacting us at another time.
This problem is not just affecting Qantas and Virgin. Almost every global airline call centre is experiencing a meltdown at the moment as the coronavirus crisis rapidly evolves, and airlines continue to drastically cut flights or even shut down. Overnight, another major airline – Austrian Airlines – announced that it is suspending all flights from Thursday, 19 March 2020.
If you need to make a change or cancel your flight booking, and booked directly with the airline, your best bet is generally to try to do this online. If you cannot do this by managing your booking on the airline’s website, try sending the airline a private message on social media such as Twitter or Facebook instead.
For the benefit of readers that haven’t been able to contact Qantas recently, an AFF member reports that they were able to get through to Qantas in a record time of under 90 minutes this morning. However, to achieve this feat, they called at 4am.
If you do need to contact an airline in the coming days (or anytime, for that matter), please keep in mind that they are currently under a lot of pressure. They are probably dealing with a lot of unhappy and even abusive customers right now. So please remember to treat all call centre employees with respect – it will go a long way!
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Virgin Australia call centre closed