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Survey Results: Readers Prefer Customer Service by Phone

A few weeks ago, United announced it will pull the plug on its customer service phone line and transfer all customer service to email and regular post. After a few reader comments revealed strong feelings about the decision, we decided to put together a poll and see whether SmarterTravel readers prefer to contact customer service by phone or in writing. The results, shall we say, are overwhelming.

64 percent of respondents said they prefer using the phone, citing everything from the clarity one can provide speaking in person to the ease with which an airline can send form letters in response to written complaints. Apparently the human connection one feels when speaking on the phone trumps the inconveniences that come with it, such as long periods of being put on hold and the occasional difficult-to-understand accent.

Of the 35 percent who prefer a written method, most claimed that current phone options are useless anyway, while some pointed out that an email or letter more clearly documents the complaint.

Of course, none of this matters to United, because the carrier has already made its choice. But perhaps other airlines considering a similar move would be wise to rethink it.

Since I’ve got airline complaints on the brain, I figured I’d pull together a few of our tips for dealing with airline customer service. For starters, it’s also good to know what your rights are in borderline situations, such as weather delays and cancelations, which aren’t usually your airline’s fault. But if your carrier is responsible, begin by figuring out who to contact in the first place. You, our readers, submitted a plethora of useful suggestions for getting results once you’re on the phone or typing away at your computer, so make sure you’re doing all you can. Lastly, be aware of murky rules such as Rule 240, which your airline may not advertise even though it’s available to you.

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