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Frontier Airlines gets rid of telephone customer service

Frontier Airlines Airbus A320 takes off from Los Angeles international Airport on August 27, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.

AaronP | Bauer-Griffin | GC Images | Getty Images

Say goodbye to the airline call center −at least at Frontier Airlines.

The budget carrier last weekend completed its transition to online, mobile and text support, which enables it to ensure that customers get “the information they need as expeditiously and efficiently as possible,” spokeswoman Jennifer de la Cruz told CNBC in an e-mailed statement.

Passengers who call the customer service number Frontier lists on its website now get the message: “At Frontier, we offer the lowest fares in the industry by operating our airline 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 or on our mobile app.”

Those who want to text with the carrier can get a link to do so sent to their phone.

Most major carriers still offer customer service lines. But Frontier, which charges fees for everything from advanced seat assignments to carry-on luggage and snacks, is often looking for ways to cut expenses. During its investor day earlier this month, Frontier hinted that it would stop offering customer service by phone, a change that travel site Travel Noire reported earlier this week.

Jack Filene, Frontier’s senior vice president of customers, said during the Nov. 15 investor presentation that the change would help lower labor costs and speed up transactions.

“We are supporting higher labor rates in the voice channel, and we’re limited to this one-to-one interaction,” Filene said. By contrast, he said a chat agent could handle three inquiries at once, and possibly more.

“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. The chatbot can answer that very quickly,” he said.

Frontier had a $31 million profit on $906 million of operating revenue in the last quarter. It spent $182 million on labor costs, its second-biggest expense after jet fuel, up nearly 70% from the same period of 2019.

The change at Frontier comes as long hold times on customer service phone lines and other channels vexed travelers this year, many of whom also faced a surge in delays and cancellations over the summer that were worsened by labor shortages.

Airline executives have added back staff, while also rolling out more channels for customers to change flights themselves or to communicate over text.

Frontier isn’t alone in forgoing a call center. Breeze Airways, the new U.S. carrier launched by JetBlue founder David Neeleman, offers only text, email or Messenger options for customer service.

“With online options, our average Guest request is completed within 15-20 minutes,” Breeze spokesman Gareth Edmondson-Jones said.

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