Who else can vividly remember the golden age of miles and points?
One credit card offer that truly got me hooked during the “golden age” was the British Airways Visa Signature Card (learn more) back in 2011.
The card was offering a sign-up bonus of 100,000 miles at the time. With that sign-up bonus, I was able to fly on a Cathay Pacific First Class ticket from New York to Asia with unlimited stopovers before British Airways changed their program and routing rules. It was an awesome redemption to get over $20,000 in flights with just one credit card!
Fast forward a couple of years, British Airways Avios had always remained near and dear to me, especially with their distance-based award chart and no close-in booking fees.
Thanks to Avios and the frequent transfer bonuses from Membership Rewards points, I can happily say they are responsible for many spontaneous and last-minute domestic redemptions for my family and me.
However, though many things have changed for the British Airways Executive Club since 2011, their call center systems have not – and I’m not just talking about their hold music (is it stuck in your head now?)
I absolutely hate having to call in for things, and there hasn’t been a time where I’ve ever waited less than 90 minutes to reach a representative when calling the British Airways US call center.
I know I am certainly not the only one with this complaint either. It blows my mind that an airline consistently has outrageous wait times, even almost a decade later.
I recently had to make a last-minute redemption between New York and Chicago for 7,500 Avios and $5.60. Previously, booking American Airlines flights with Avios online was a simple process; however, it’s no longer possible anymore, and you have to call in.
In 2014, British Airways closed their Jacksonville, US-based call center that was only available during limited hours, and now all calls made to their US number route to their UK call centers.
Fortunately, Executive Club members can call any service center to make or change their bookings. A common workaround is using Skype credits to call one of their English-speaking call centers in Asia such as Hong Kong or Singapore.
For data point purposes, I was curious to see if anything had changed since the last time (many years ago) that I called the British Airways US number to make a booking.
As expected, 40 minutes had passed, and I was still on hold. I was already mentally committed by then, and for the purposes of this
rant blog post, I wanted to see exactly how long it would take to finally talk to a human being just to make a domestic booking that I’d previously made online dozens of times by myself in under 3 minutes.
After an hour an 40 minutes, I finally got through to an agent (who ended up being very polite and helpful), but by then, I was so frustrated by this broken process!
In today’s modern world, I’d consider it pretty unacceptable for a major airline to not have their call centers together. Not only are hold times painfully long to begin with, 1. there’s no indication of how long your expected wait time would be, and 2. there’s no “call back” option available when your call is next in line to be answered.
While a reduction of hold time would be optimal, both of the above options would make the overall phone experience less painful, and would be a step in the right direction.
Better yet – fix the online booking process so that people can do as much as they can on their own.
Since time is money, having a call center that delivers a minimally acceptable level of customer support and ease of use, it makes me not want to further put any of my energy into Avios, period.
Fortunately, a friend of mine suggested I try to call the Mexico call center, which is actually based in San Jose, CA.
If you can follow a few prompts in Spanish, the wait times are significantly shorter.
For research purposes, I made the call. Even though my Spanish proficiency is minimal, I knew I had the right number because of the infamous British Airways hold music, so I patiently waited.
To my surprise, I was connected to an agent in just 11 minutes! I asked her if we could continue the call in English, and she responded in perfect English that she could. After all, the agents are US-based to begin with.
The number for the British Airways Mexico call center is (408) 352-9323, and that is the number I will be using from this point forward.
The current British Airways call center situation is beyond horrible, and it makes it a frustrating experience to ever have to make an Avios booking that previously was one of the simplest of all.
Anyone else just as frustrated as I am with British Airways call center?