Frontier, the budget-friendly airline that charges for everything from in-flight snacks to carry-ons, is looking to cut costs even more by doing away with its customer service phone line (via CNBC). Customers with questions about their reservations can now only contact Frontier’s agents through the live chat on its website, via WhatsApp, or on social media.
In an emailed statement to The Verge, company spokesperson Jennifer De La Cruz confirmed that Frontier’s customer service has “transitioned to fully digital communications,” which is supposed to help “ensure customers get the information they need as expeditiously and efficiently as possible.” When customers try to call the phone number that Frontier removed from its website (but still surfaces on Google), they’re greeted with this message before getting the option to chat online instead:
At Frontier, we offer the lowest fares in the industry by operating our airlines as efficiently as possible. We want our customers to be able to operate efficiently as well, which is why we make it easy to find what you need at FlyFrontier.com or on our mobile app. We also have a chat service available 24/7.
If you agree to chat online, Frontier will text you a link to the company’s live chat on its website, where you’re required to deal with a chatbot before you can get in touch with an actual human. According to De La Cruz, the transition was rolled out gradually and came into force last weekend. “We have found that most customers prefer communicating via digital channels,” De La Cruz adds.
This follows the company’s November 15th investor presentation, which states that one-to-one voice calls are “unscalable, inefficient, and expensive” and suggests implementing a three-to-one live chat that would have one agent servicing three customers at a time. “Think about the most sort of obscure question a customer might ask that would take a call center agent many, many minutes to research and find an answer to,” Jack Filene, Frontier’s senior vice president of customers said during the presentation, CNBC reports. “The chatbot can answer that very quickly.”
Earlier this month, the Department of Transportation ordered Frontier Airlines to pay $222 million in customer refunds and a $2.2 million penalty to compensate customers for canceled or significantly changed flights. In 2020, Frontier Airlines was accused of providing vouchers instead of refunds to customers whose flights were changed or canceled due to the covid-19 pandemic, a practice the DOT considers “unlawful.”
Frontier is one of the largest airlines to cut customers off from its phone lines. Even the budget airline Spirit, which attempted to acquire Frontier over the summer, still lets customers talk to agents over the phone. While dealing with long hold times when calling customer service is a pain, a phone line still seems necessary to have as an option, especially for folks who aren’t so technologically savvy.