In early 2020, when the coronavirus was still a distant concern, my wife and I booked an AirAsia flight to Bali. Big mistake. At the start of lockdown, we scrambled to secure a refund. We called the airline’s customer-support line: no dice. We pleaded with its online chatbot, a lobotomized character named AVA. We sent a Twitter message to the brand on March 17 and received a response seven weeks later that read, in full, “Twitter Feedback.”
Those were dark days in airline customer service, with so many travelers desperate to figure out alternative plans. The present is not much brighter. In recent months, airlines around the world have changed how they engage with customers who need help. Frontier will no longer take your call, encouraging fliers to make contact via chatbot. Alaska Airlines is removing check-in kiosks at certain airports, driving people to its app. Air France, KLM, and Ryanair have all suspended customer service on Twitter, which for a time may have been the quickest way to summon a living, breathing employee.