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I'm Going Back To Travel Agents.  
User currently offlinegasman From New Zealand, joined Mar 2004, 862 posts, RR: 0
Posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 5275 times:

I embraced the internet, and on-line shopping as soon as it was invented. I must've been one of Amazon's first customers. There must be a thousand businesses all over the world with my credit card details, and I've never had a problem. The advent of internet based booking engines, and then tripadvisor were for me, like nirvana. I resented travel agents with their formulaic responses to questions, their overpriced packages and the fact that they seemed to take my business for granted. For the last 15 years I have rejoiced in the fact I can organize my own travel how I want, and get the best deals from the comfort of my own home.

Yet, after this time I am now returning to travel agents. I perceive the pendulum has slowly swung back towards them, and here's why.

- The price differentials between agent based and self based bookings aren't as great anymore. Yes, they're still occasionally there, but you have to look much harder to find them.
- If you want a multi-destination, or worse, a mutli airline booking you can generally forget about doing it yourself.
- Flights booked on line generally have to be paid for immediately and are often hard to amend once done. Travel agents will often give you ages to muck around and change things before you actually pay.
- Making changes once travel has actually commenced to bookings you've made yourself can be disastrous - involving hefty toll charges, non-English speaking long distance phone conversations etc. before you eventually are advised what you want to do is impossible. If you have a travel agent back home, it just takes one email.
- Often, they are still able to provide valuable travel advice - if you find a good one.

Thoughts?

25 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlinePacNWjet From United States of America, joined Sep 2000, 980 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 5241 times:

Here is another reason to consult a travel agent: Often for first and business class tickets travel agents have access to discounted fares which are not always easy for a traveler to find online. At least, that has been my experience. I have also found that travel agents can find frequent flier award travel tickets much more easily than I can find on my own.

User currently offlineFlyboyOz From Australia, joined Nov 2000, 1987 posts, RR: 25
Reply 2, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 5239 times:

I prefer to use travel agent... why? If my plane delayed or cancel due to natural disaster or my plan has been changed such as relocation, then travel agent can rearrange my flights for me and will pay little extra or not - under my reservation number. Sometimes, you can go to the airport or airline office to change it for you.

Travel agent software such as Gaelileo has got cheaper airfare than website. I suspected that how they get it. I would love to have it so that I can find cheaper one.

However, travel agent wont tell me or help me to find cheap airfare. Travel agent isn't job to hunt extra cheap airfare for long time. It's our job to find it. They would say it's cheap and made/persuade me to pay now. How can i trust them or why can't i wait to find cheap one first? Maybe they want to earn more "money points" so that they can earn more or promote to the senior position. Can travel agent predict the airfare would be cheaper - would they said to the clients o wait for a while??

If you want to go back to be a travel agent, how come you can't have staff travel??



The Spirit of AustraliAN - Longreach
User currently offlinegasman From New Zealand, joined Mar 2004, 862 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 5228 times:

Quoting FlyboyOz (Reply 2):
If you want to go back to be a travel agent, how come you can't have staff travel??

I'm not a travel agent myself...... not sure how you got this from my post.

Quoting FlyboyOz (Reply 2):
Sometimes, you can go to the airport or airline office to change it for you.

But even they are becoming rare these days. It used to be that wherever an airline flew, they'd have an office at the airport open during working hours. Not so anymore.

Quoting FlyboyOz (Reply 2):
Travel agent isn't job to hunt extra cheap airfare for long time. It's our job to find it.

Not sure I agree there. They generally have the tools to find cheap airfares quickly and easily, and will do so if asked. I suspect they make more money from accommodation bookings than they do off most airfares.


User currently offlineicanfly From Australia, joined Aug 2011, 86 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 5209 times:

This is an excellent topic! I also feel that travel agents have recently 'fought back' against the online booking revolution. Like any occupation, there are good, average and bad travel agents. But a good one can make trip planning much more enjoyable by offering a more convenient, streamlined 'one-stop shop' style service than you get by self-booking. I recently used a travel agent to book a round-the-world Star Alliance trip. He researched the best fares for my itinerary, presented the options to me in an email, prepared a detailed itinerary, organized special meals and seat preferences and advised on visa requirements. This guy also had access to fare I could not have booked myself online. It was like having a personal assistant to do all the work for me!

PS: I am not a travel agent.



United: please start SYD-IAH!
User currently offlineaklrno From United States of America, joined Dec 2010, 951 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 5173 times:

I use my New Zealand travel agent for most long-haul and/or complicated flights and do the domestic stuff myself. I also sometimes use the agent for hotels too. Travel agents get free trips to lots of places so you can take advantage of that experience. I used to have an agent who knew my preferences so well she could always book exactly the hotel I wanted without any effort on my part. Unfortunately she got promoted to the home office and I have to train a new one.

American Express tries to duplicate that service for premium card holders, so I expect other companies do as well, but it's not the same as having a single person who knows your problems and what you like.

I once had a problem with the NZ check-in staff at LAX. I called my agent in Auckland and explained the problem. He took over the problem and got me on the plane. Sometimes its just nice to have someone to help who knows what's going on.


User currently offlinegasman From New Zealand, joined Mar 2004, 862 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 5164 times:

Quoting aklrno (Reply 5):
Sometimes its just nice to have someone to help who knows what's going on.

I totally agree. What crystallized the issue for me was being in Paris recently, wanting to amend my flight on Thai to come back to NZ a day earlier. I'd booked it myself and had to go through various call centers etc - it was a major hassle and I did reflect it would've been much simpler had I engaged the services of an agent in the first place.


User currently offlineOA260 From Ireland, joined Nov 2006, 27115 posts, RR: 60
Reply 7, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 5089 times:

Well you need to check online and in a travel agents. I find it varies depending on airline/route etc.. TA's often have consol fares which are not available anywhere else and these can be very competitive.

If you get a good TA's who knows their stuff then I can understand why some people are loyal. You have someone to call rather than a centralised call centre in India or somewhere where you are just another number. Often TA's build a rapport with their clients and will do all they can if issues arise.


User currently offlineaerorobnz From Rwanda, joined Feb 2001, 7262 posts, RR: 13
Reply 8, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 5084 times:

Quoting aklrno (Reply 5):
I once had a problem with the NZ check-in staff at LAX.

Many people have had issues with the Hallmark/United 'NZ' Check in Staff at LAX...they're an interesting breed..

As far as travel agents, they're good if you like to pay cash for things, they're good if you have a niche holiday planned, they're good if you are a regular business traveller, and with internet banking things have got a whole lot easier - no need to have a $5000-$10000 wad of bank notes or a bank cheque any longer.

I'm a former travel agent, and I got out at a time when the industry was dying a painful death. I agree there has been a resurgence, and I'm glad, but I haven't used a travel agent for a while. I consider myself more than able to do things myself, and I still have many of my obsessive travel agent skills when planning...:-P

I think much of the reason is because we as airlines have stomped on people who booked online themselves without any knowledge of what they were doing and also those who tried to cut corners (separate tickets with not enough time to do things). Just today I offloaded a passenger who purchased 2 separate tickets themselves with an illegal connection. They are learning that airlines won't tolerate passengers not having correct visas, passport validity, people who purchase fares without bags when they want bags but don't want to pay for them etc etc.


User currently offlineneutrino From Singapore, joined May 2012, 615 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 5057 times:

I did all my short haul and regional bookings myself online as they are simple and straightforward, but leave the long journeys (usually with a day or two stopovers) to travel agents.


Potestatem obscuri lateris nescitis
User currently offlinegasman From New Zealand, joined Mar 2004, 862 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 13 hours ago) and read 4956 times:

Quoting aerorobnz (Reply 8):
As far as travel agents, they're good if you like to pay cash for things

I've never paid a travel agent with cash in my life! One of their great advantages I think is that they allow you to make bookings, wait a bit, muck around and change things - and THEN pay. Making bookings on-line requires you to make payment immediately.


User currently offlineaerorobnz From Rwanda, joined Feb 2001, 7262 posts, RR: 13
Reply 11, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 11 hours ago) and read 4917 times:

Quoting gasman (Reply 10):
One of their great advantages I think is that they allow you to make bookings, wait a bit, muck around and change things - and THEN pay.

yeah, but those of us who don't like to use credit cards (before debit cards in NZ were widely available) would still wait a bit, and then go and pay cash.


User currently offlineOA260 From Ireland, joined Nov 2006, 27115 posts, RR: 60
Reply 12, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 4 days 22 hours ago) and read 4806 times:

The good thing about the consol fares is that often you can hold them for a week or two and then chop and change them. Say for instance you wanted a 9am flight and only the 1pm was available you can get them to hold that and keep checking for the earlier flight. Very handy. If you booked online or direct with the carrier then you would often pay a fee of between $30-$60 if they were able to be changed after ticketing at all.

User currently offlinedstc47 From Ireland, joined Sep 1999, 1481 posts, RR: 3
Reply 13, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 4 days 1 hour ago) and read 4669 times:

Quoting OA260 (Reply 7):
If you get a good TA's who knows their stuff then I can understand why some people are loyal.

Indeed, they can often be very, very helpful , as were airline staff in downtown offices, now almost completely gone. If you have a good one, keep em.

However, in this part of the world the few remaining often seem increasingly geared to selling two week, or one week package holidays, often with tied companies. Increasingly see travel adverts in their window weeks, often months, out of date. Does not generate much confidence when the staff file past them day after day, without noticing that Christmas is long over. Would you really want to rely on persons that dozy for advice on exotic, or even unusual trips? Sadly many of the older, better trained, staff are leaving the industry and independents are shutting up shop. Less risk with DIY.


User currently offlinevhtje From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2009, 376 posts, RR: 0
Reply 14, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 4 days 1 hour ago) and read 4667 times:
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I am ambivalent about travel agents.

I am forced to use a travel agent (think local franchise of a big American credit card company) for my corporate travel. Poor service - all they want to do is to book the flight/hotel with the least amount of hassle (from me, or anyone else). For example if I want to delay my return and add some private travel to my trip, my corporate travel agent is usually very unhelpful and inflexible. They certainly are nothing like pro-active in responding to me and my needs - I travel most months and still have have to go though the rigmarole of explaining my preferences to them each time I book. A lot of it is a waste of my time, frankly - with all the back-and-forth, it takes me a hour to book a flight to Berlin which I could book in minutes online.

In their defence their margins are so thin, who can blame them for aiming for quantity over quality?

My partner and I sometimes use Trailfinders for private travel. They are better, at least they have our interests at heart, but they don't really actively search for cheaper fares for us. Still, they do offer excellent service and we will continue to use them for any booking which involves a complex itinerary or if we need some advice on an unknown destination.

My biggest bugbear with using a travel agent though is that if I want to change my flight, I have to go back to the travel agent. This can be a big problem due to timezone differences when I am on the other side of the world to my agent.


User currently offlinegasman From New Zealand, joined Mar 2004, 862 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 3 days 3 hours ago) and read 4548 times:

Quoting vhtje (Reply 14):
My biggest bugbear with using a travel agent though is that if I want to change my flight, I have to go back to the travel agent. This can be a big problem due to timezone differences when I am on the other side of the world to my agent.

But this is way less of a hassle than trying to explain your wishes through some call center, most likely not even located in the country you're in, all the while racking up huge phone charges and probably not achieving your aim anyway. With a travel agent, all it takes is one email. Albeit with the inconvenience of a possible 12 hour wait while the time-zones align.

Quoting dstc47 (Reply 13):
Would you really want to rely on persons that dozy for advice on exotic, or even unusual trips?

Absolutely not. But it is my perception that dozy travel agents are a thing of the past. The industry is too cut-throat for them to survive. A good one, on the other hand, can be just like having your own travel P-A.


User currently offlineOA260 From Ireland, joined Nov 2006, 27115 posts, RR: 60
Reply 16, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 3 days ago) and read 4536 times:

Quoting dstc47 (Reply 13):
Sadly many of the older, better trained, staff are leaving the industry and independents are shutting up shop. Less risk with DIY.

Yet on the flip side the ones who are still in the industry and know their stuff and constantly update their windows and social media pages are cleaning up . So I guess its a case of be on the ball and adapt or die. A mate of mine who is in travel is working from home and is bringing in an amazing wage. It always impresses me how far he goes to make sure his clients are given the personal touch. He has often taken his top 5 clients out for a meal to thank them for the business. Now thats thinking outside of the box.


User currently offlineNZ107 From New Zealand, joined Jul 2005, 6436 posts, RR: 38
Reply 17, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 4530 times:

Quoting gasman (Thread starter):

- If you want a multi-destination, or worse, a mutli airline booking you can generally forget about doing it yourself.

I think this is the only reason for me to use a travel agent for some bookings. I won't use them for all because I can get cheaper fares elsewhere. But for the sake of earning miles, the travel agent has the entire range of booking classes he/she can put you into. Take the horrible new AA website - you have no choice of what booking class to be put into. Therefore going through a TA makes so much sense.

Quoting FlyboyOz (Reply 2):
If my plane delayed or cancel due to natural disaster or my plan has been changed such as relocation, then travel agent can rearrange my flights for me and will pay little extra or not - under my reservation number. Sometimes, you can go to the airport or airline office to change it for you.

That's the benefit of having an elite status with an alliance/airline if you're just flying with them.. Though I suppose a TA could also be useful in such situations; depending on how good they are.



It's all about the destination AND the journey.
User currently offlineneutrino From Singapore, joined May 2012, 615 posts, RR: 0
Reply 18, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 2 days 19 hours ago) and read 4490 times:

Quoting gasman (Reply 15):
But this is way less of a hassle than trying to explain your wishes through some call center, most likely not even located in the country you're in, all the while racking up huge phone charges and probably not achieving your aim anyway. With a travel agent, all it takes is one email. Albeit with the inconvenience of a possible 12 hour wait while the time-zones align.

Absolutely not. But it is my perception that dozy travel agents are a thing of the past. The industry is too cut-throat for them to survive. A good one, on the other hand, can be just like having your own travel P-A.

The lady at the travel agent I use for (infrequent) longhaul trips gave me her mobile phone number to text her should I encounter problems for my flights. She even said she will answer immediately for at least 16 hrs a day, the exception of



Potestatem obscuri lateris nescitis
User currently offlineaklrno From United States of America, joined Dec 2010, 951 posts, RR: 0
Reply 19, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 2 days 12 hours ago) and read 4435 times:

Quoting neutrino (Reply 18):
Quoting gasman (Reply 15):
But this is way less of a hassle than trying to explain your wishes through some call center, most likely not even located in the country you're in, all the while racking up huge phone charges and probably not achieving your aim anyway. With a travel agent, all it takes is one email. Albeit with the inconvenience of a possible 12 hour wait while the time-zones align.

Absolutely not. But it is my perception that dozy travel agents are a thing of the past. The industry is too cut-throat for them to survive. A good one, on the other hand, can be just like having your own travel P-A.

The lady at the travel agent I use for (infrequent) longhaul trips gave me her mobile phone number to text her should I encounter problems for my flights. She even said she will answer immediately for at least 16 hrs a day, the exception of

Some agencies (like the one I use) have a 24-hour call center for emergencies. I get the advantage of my personal agent or others in his local office during the day, and the call center at other times. The call center has access to my records. They speak the same language I do. They never charge me anything.

The only airline that gives me such good service for free is Southwest which you can't book through an agent anyway.


User currently offlinegasman From New Zealand, joined Mar 2004, 862 posts, RR: 0
Reply 20, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 2 days 11 hours ago) and read 4429 times:

Quoting aklrno (Reply 19):
The only airline that gives me such good service for free is Southwest which you can't book through an agent anyway.

I've only flown two return trips on Southwest, and each time was a complete pleasure - from booking, to inflight service. The legacy carriers in the US could learn a thing or two from them. Sorry for the slightly off-piste post.


User currently offlineblueflyer From United States of America, joined Jan 2006, 4069 posts, RR: 2
Reply 21, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 4391 times:
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Quoting vhtje (Reply 14):
I am forced to use a travel agent (think local franchise of a big American credit card company) for my corporate travel.

Respectfully, your employer needs to re-bid their contract. I am extremely satisfied with ours, which has nothing to do with that credit card. It seems everything yours doesn't, ours does. Those of us who travel the most have a dedicated person to call upon, they know our travel policies and individual preferences, and when a dedicated agent isn't available, another agent can look up electronic records.

Making or amending a booking is generally quick and painless. That I can reach someone 24/7 is the cherry on top of the cake.



I've got $h*t to do
User currently offlineFlyboyOz From Australia, joined Nov 2000, 1987 posts, RR: 25
Reply 22, posted (1 year 6 months 1 week 5 days 4 hours ago) and read 4143 times:

Can travel agent predict that there would be a cheaper airfare next week? Are they allowed to tell client to wait for next week or week after before they buy it?


The Spirit of AustraliAN - Longreach
User currently offlineaklrno From United States of America, joined Dec 2010, 951 posts, RR: 0
Reply 23, posted (1 year 6 months 1 week 5 days 3 hours ago) and read 4137 times:

Quoting FlyboyOz (Reply 22):

Can travel agent predict that there would be a cheaper airfare next week? Are they allowed to tell client to wait for next week or week after before they buy it?

Mine does. He also knows my travel patterns and can advise me when it might be a good idea not only to book my next trip but the next+1 if there is a bargain possible. Just like airlines can hedge costs with fuel futures, I hedge ticket costs with ticket futures as long as I have some flexibility to change dates. Like any futures, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.


User currently offlineRyanairGuru From Australia, joined Oct 2006, 5736 posts, RR: 5
Reply 24, posted (1 year 6 months 1 week 4 days 3 hours ago) and read 4048 times:

Quoting dstc47 (Reply 13):
Sadly many of the older, better trained, staff are leaving the industry and independents are shutting up shop

It is sad to see what has happened to the travel agency business in the UK (I assume Ireland is the same?) where you are only left with Thomson, First Choice and Thomas Cook, whose agents don't know how to do anything but sell 2 weeks on the Costas through their linked agency.

The independents in the UK look like a thing of the past unfortunately, and they are taking the true professionals with them. Even Thomas Cook used to be a very good agency, now they are also bucket-and-spade-and-god-help-you-if-you-don't-want-an-all-inclusive-package

Quoting gasman (Reply 15):
A good one, on the other hand, can be just like having your own travel P-A.

I agree 100%

I have such an agent, and I could not imagine planning anything other than a domestic flight without him now. One phone call and it's done, often at a much cheaper price than I can find online. I'm also pushing more and more of my friends business his way, so he is still happy!

Between myself and people I know we've pushed, on average, over $2000 per week his way since January 1 of this year, so I'm sure he's happy 
Quoting aklrno (Reply 19):
Some agencies (like the one I use) have a 24-hour call center for emergencies. I get the advantage of my personal agent or others in his local office during the day, and the call center at other times. The call center has access to my records. They speak the same language I do. They never charge me anything.

Same here, I'm pretty sure we are talking about the same agency   

Quoting FlyboyOz (Reply 22):
Are they allowed to tell client to wait for next week or week after before they buy it?

Whether they are "supposed" to or not I'm not sure, but in my experience they do.



Worked Hard, Flew Right
User currently offlinevhtje From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2009, 376 posts, RR: 0
Reply 25, posted (1 year 6 months 1 week 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 4014 times:
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Quoting blueflyer (Reply 21):
Respectfully, your employer needs to re-bid their contract.

Couldn't agree with you 100% more. And you are correct, it is nothing to do with the unnamed credit card company, since it is a franchise, as I stated in my original post. (For the record, I receive absolutely outstanding service from the actual credit card company.)

We did change franchisees a couple of years back. The current one, poor though they still are, is actually miles better than the last one. The stories I could tell...

The problem for me is that my company is Californian-based and the service the head office receives in the US is excellent - I know because I used the American agent when I was based in Chicago during 2011. It is we outlying branch offices, forced to use the same brand - who suffer. I am in no position to get it changed, unfortunately.


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