Frontier Airlines did away with its customer service call line a few months ago in favor of a messaging-based system available on multiple platforms.
The airline says customer response has been good so far, but a number of Frontier passengers told USA TODAY that their experience with the new protocol was decidedly less positive.
Joe Lorenz was booked to fly from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Denver to celebrate the New Year, and he received a message that his flight was canceled while he was on his way to the airport. He and his travel companions ended up renting a car and driving from Michigan to Colorado, but they were unable to confirm whether the reservation for their flight home was still valid.
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“I’m not doing it again. It’s a deal breaker for me,” he said. “We’re fairly tech-savvy people. I can’t imagine trying to deal with this if we didn’t have three people on this trying to figure it out.”
Is Frontier’s new support system helpfu
Lorenz said getting in touch with the airline is frustrating and time-consuming using the new system.
First, he said, the messaging app sent him through a series of automated prompts. It took Lorenz about 20 minutes to connect with a live agent through the chat, and even then, that person’s responses were delayed.
“Every time you ask this person, it’s legitimately five to 10 minutes before they answer,” he said, adding that the third-party customer service agents he dealt with were never able to confirm whether or not his return flight booking was still valid.
Lorenz was unable to resolve an issue with online check-in for his return flight via customer service messages, too.
Instead, he had to speak to a ticket agent at the airport, which he said resulted in a $25 charge for in-person check-in, which is Frontier’s standard “airport agent assistance” fee.
Brittany Hoxworth, a longtime Frontier frequent flyer, said she’s had similarly frustrating experiences with the airline’s new system and plans to change her loyalty to another carrier.
Hoxworth, who tried to use the chat to spend Frontier flight credits and alter existing reservations, said she got disconnected from the chat when she was using her phone’s web browser any time she opened another tab, and that the customer service agents ended the conversation more than once if she didn’t respond within 30 seconds.
“How are you going to give the customer a shorter response time than the actual employee?” she said. “That’s a horrible user interface.”
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Both Hoxworth and Lorenz said travelers should be cautious about booking with Frontier in the future under the new system.
“Basically, if you’ve got any problem, you’re high and dry,” Lorenz said, though he quickly added that all of the Frontier employees he interacted with in person on the plane and at the airports were extremely helpful and professional.
Hoxworth added that it’s important for customers to know how Frontier operates before they decide to book.
“Frontier is an airline that attracts infrequent flyers, and then you’re putting your customer care so out of reach for people who likely need more,” she said. “If you need a simple question answered that’s nearly impossible, let alone something more complicated.”
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What does Frontier say about its customer service chat?
For its part, Frontier says its new customer service system has been a helpful shift for customers overall.
“Results from our full transition to chat-based customer service have been very positive. Based on post-interaction surveys, customer satisfaction with chat interactions rank significantly higher than previous ratings tied to voice service,” the airline said in a statement.
According to the airline, customers waited five to six minutes on average to connect with a chat agent during the holidays. Travelers who need assistance can reach out through Frontier’s website or on social media.
What you’re entitled to if your flight is canceled or delayed
Lorenz, whose flight to Denver was canceled, would have been entitled to a refund if he chose not to travel. Ultimately, he did wind up taking his originally-booked flight back to Michigan at the end of his vacation.
Flight delayed or canceled?:What you need to know and what airlines owe travelers.
In the event of a delay, customers should check with their airline and the Department of Transportation’s dashboard to see what the individual carrier’s policy allows for. There’s no specific regulation requiring compensation in the event of a delay, so each company sets its own rules.