PanAm747
Topic Author
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Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 1:54 am

Hello to all!!

This question is directed to travel agents in our a.net family.

With the advent of computers and the internet, the need for travel agents to book tickets has dropped tremendously in the past few years. I know that when I want to fly I can do everything through websites with a credit card and reservation number for flights, hotels, and rental cars.

However, I question whether this can be done on a scale when planning large scale vacations, such as Hawai'i or Europe. While there are web sites that have packages, finding the best deal many times takes someone with experience. As an example, my last trip to Hawai'i had several packages from the United Vacations website, but a travel agent found a better deal, and was very familiar with some out of the way spots that I would not have found. Not to mention, some destinations have HUGE blocks of seats earmarked specifically for travel companies' clients, so a person could end up paying WAY more for airfare than is needed.

Travel agents, is this the future of your business? The large scale packages that really can't be done via the internet? I'd appreciate any insights you might have!!
Pan Am:The World's Most Experienced Airline - P(oor) S(ailor's) A(irline): San Diego's Hometown Airline-Catch Our Smile!
 
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EA CO AS
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RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 2:04 am

The mom and pop, brick-and-mortar travel agencies have taken a huge hit in recent years.

The internet has revolutionized the distribution of airline tickets. Air carriers are now able to sell their product via their own online distribution channel as well as through online wholesalers and mega-agencies like Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz.

As a result, many small, independent agencies have folded or merged with large ones. Where agencies once were paid on commissions, they now earn meager overrides from some air carriers they do large amounts of business with, and the bulk of their income is derived from service fees they charge to their clients directly.

Many agencies are also severing their relationship with ARC (the Airlines Reporting Corporation) and unplugging their GDS entirely, buying a fast PC with high-speed internet access and using the airlines' own websites to sell tickets to their clients.

For that trip you want to Vegas? Just buy it online yourself and save yourself the hassle. If you're planning a cruise package and want it all done right? Do yourself a favor and pay a professional travel agency to do it for you. The service fee is more than worth the time and trouble of coordinating everything yourself, plus the peace of mind of knowing that a (hopefully!) seasoned professional has arranged it for you.
"In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem - government IS the problem." - Ronald Reagan

Comments made here are my own and are not intended to represent the official position of Alaska Air Group
 
NWA757
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RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 2:17 am

The mom and pop, brick-and-mortar travel agencies have taken a huge hit in recent years. In my opinion it is quite sad really. Being a travel agent used to be a dream of mine, however in the recent years the internet has really hit the Travel industry hard for better and for worse.
Fly High!
 
AMS
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RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 2:48 am

More and more Travel Agents cannot survive due to the hudge amount of Internet bookings etc, Especially the small ones which sell mostly airline tickets. Some Travel agents set up a booking engine attached to their website, so people are able to book tickets.

The only disadvantage here in Europe is that most Travel agents have to charge a booking/Reservation fee, While most Airlines don't charge them if you book on their website.

It looks that more LCC's are entering the market, and I believe that maybe in 10 years from now the majority of Airlines are operating as LCC's

The good old times as Travel Agents are disappearing.

Regards,
AMS

 
geoffm
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RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 3:01 am

Speaking from a customer point of view, I have yet to actually buy more than one holiday from a travel agents. The reason is simple: it's cheaper online (most of the time). Okay, so your Ayia Napa and Canaries package deals might be cheaper, but that's not the sort of holiday I go on anyway.

Example: I asked my local agents (independant and one of the top 5 in the country apparently) to cost up a 2 week holiday from London to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Phuket and Bangkok. Total cost £1765. I then asked him to write down all the details - which hotels, flight numbers, dates, accomodation standard (executive king with breakfast, that sort of thing).

I then went online and booked everything identical to the specs given earlier, barring one train journey on Expedia. Total cost £1200. That was without even trying to find better deals. The train journey I bought locally for £20.

I've done the same thing a few times before, booked online and then laughed at the travel agent prices.

Is booking it yourself a load of hassle? Why, no, of course not! That is half the fun of the holiday - booking it yourself! It certainly beats finding out that the hotel your agent booked you up in was a complete dump! At least with the internet you can view their website, sometimes even find reviews of that hotel on other independant websites.

Sure, travel agents have a future. Just not with me, and their prominence won't be as much as the good old days.

Geoff M.
 
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PA110
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RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 6:14 am

Geoff,
You used the travel agent to find the properties and then booked them yourself. Good for you! However, you placed no value whatsoever on the travel agent's time in finding and researching the information. While the difference in your specific example is significant, often the difference is not as large.

In general, travel agents who are passive "order takers" are on their way to extinction, and are easily replaced by the internet. As a tour operator, I am seeing more and more experienced leisure travel agents leave their agencies, and set up their own businesses. They specialize in customized vacations, where their detailed knowledge and experience are the asset they bring to the equation.

Someone looking for that perfect hidden getaway, might spend hours and hours finding various references on the internet, but might not find independent reviews from travelers who have actually been there. That's where the "good" agent proves their worth. A really good agent will have been to their specialty destination multiple times, and have visited the majority of hotels & resorts, gathering first hand knowledge. In this case, there is nothing wrong with the agent charging a fee for the value they bring to the booking. As to what level of fee is acceptable, that's a matter of negotiation.

However, using an agent as a free reference source and then booking everything yourself is probably not the most ethical or decent thing to do. Karma often has a funny way of getting even.
It's been swell, but the swelling has gone down.
 
airbazar
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RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 6:32 am

Travel Agents as we knew it are on the way out. Travel Agents provide a value added service and they should change their business practices to adapt to the new realities of the travel industry. They should charge their customers for this value added service and stop relying on the old commission based system which is all but gone.

There will always be people who are either too lazy or not knowledgeble enough to book their travel, or would rather pay a premium for having somebody else do the job. So travel agents will never disapear completely.
I mean, I can wash my car for free at home but I still take it to a car wash and pay $15. Same thing here.
 
PanAm747
Topic Author
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RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 6:56 am

Keep in mind, though, that the vast majority of the world does NOT have access to computers like we do. A migrant worker from the central valley of California going to visit Mexico or Central America is not going to be able to arrange everything by himself, and will therefore pay an expert to handle the details. A travel agency will obtain all tickets in advance (bus, plane, bus again), plus be able to secure the tickets because of a business credit card (which the worker will almost definitely not have). For this purpose alone, there will always be a need a travel agents to certain part of the world. However, As was stated before, "as to what level of fee is acceptable, that's a matter of negotiation".

I think this goes along well with the statement about specialty agents. The internet, basically, is a series of well made interactive commercials designed to sell you something. If you don't know exactly what you're looking for, the internet sites are not going to help you; they're going try and change your mind about what you want. Someone who's been there and is out to make sure you get EXACTLY what your looking for (or they're going to direct to the person who can) is a distinctly human trait that no machine can duplicate.
Pan Am:The World's Most Experienced Airline - P(oor) S(ailor's) A(irline): San Diego's Hometown Airline-Catch Our Smile!
 
ual747den
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RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 6:59 am

I am glad that travel agents are getting what is coming to them. They have ripped people off for years and now they are going down. If they really did their jobs and were able to secure lower fares they would stay around for years but all they basically did was try to sell you the highest price package so that they would make the highest commission. I am fond of only one travel agency and it is a major one that is used to book only packages of over 100 people. What travel agents didn't do the web is doing today and that is giving the lowest fare, and a lot of the time lower than what you could get directly from the airline. Again if travel agents would have conducted business in a way that worked to save the traveler money they would still be here, instead they tried to make themselves rich, the internet came around and showed us how badly we were getting ripped off and they are out of business GOOD!
/// UNITED AIRLINES
 
VonRichtofen
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RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 7:03 am

I still use a Travel Agent most of the time. For short trips within North America I'll book online, but overseas I'll use a T/A because my T/A always manages to find flights that are about 20% cheaper than anything online. Not only that, but if your trip has several destinations booking online can be a huge pain in the ass. So much easier to just call my T/A up, give him my details of where and when etc. and have him work it all out.


Kris
 
dl021
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RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 7:32 am

The modern travel agent who wishes to succeed must sell themselves to their clients and provide services people cannot provide for themselves. The market for business travellers is still good in spite of the competition, and a professional travel agent who knows their client and what they want will be able to better serve the client. It takes training and dedication coupled with sales ability to make it against the competition provided by the airlines and tour operators. What is worse is that sometimes the travel agents are their own worst enemy. The poorly trained and experience limited agents have either gone or are going, and the agencies that survive will do so selling complex packages, cruises, and tours. This will require superior skills and experience. The agencies that will live and make good money must be able to provide either exclusive high end business and leisure consulting or be able to do high volume.

If you want to fly to an all inclusive in Jamaica, you can take your chances and book yourself....If you want to stay at the right hotel in a city you do not know you need to find a good agent with the right knowledge, connections and consistency who will take the right care of you by sending you to the best places for you using the right airlines for your parameters.

Let me know if you need one either in the US or Europe, I can make a referral, because the good ones are hard to come by.
Is my Pan Am ticket to the moon still good?
 
access-air
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RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 7:41 am

UA747DEN:

I should have known....You would make an cruel comment like that....
I have been a travel agent for 16 years and I do my job very well thank you very much...
Travel Agents do not rip anyone off......If you are referring to Travel Agency booking fees....BLAME THE AIRLINES......They decided that Travel Agents weren't worth anything to them anymore and cut our commissions to ZERO!!!!
Today Travel Agents can only sell you tickets with the fares that the airlines are willing to allow us to sell.....
Once again you are incredibly mis-informed!!!!!!!!
As for anyone using a travel agent to get information so they can an go book it by themselves....We have one word for people like that in our agency.... SCUM!!! Well that's my opinion anyway....
The biggest problem is that the internet world has taken a very once respected and well esteemed industry and has made it as trivial as buying shoes.
The benefits of using a travel agency is that most of the agencies have employees that travel to many places and have experienced first hand the good the bad and the ugly of what the general public is clueless about...
How many times do we see people on this forum ask what they can expect from an airline or a destination or the like????
Thru all these online booking engines you have little or no help if you have a problem..A travel agent is there to help in case something goes wrong. we get the job done!!!

Example: I had a client that bought a 5 segment ticket on Continental to Mexico that had a few stops on it....One of which was a Mexicana segment and it made the whole ticket a paper ticket.
Well, he got to the airport and was checking in....He had called us to tell us he didn't have the first two flight coupons....I told him that he indeed had them and that they should be there ....The CO agent was insisting that they weren't on the ticket.....I asked our client to let me speak to the airline agent....A little heated exchange took place between my self and the CO agent..... finally some how an agent next to this very insistent agent did find that coupons...Another agent had pulled them and attached boarding passes....Did I get any thank you?? Nope....The Airline agent when he found that he screwed up pretended like he didn't hear what I was saying and then hung up the clients cell phone.....
that's just a small thing.....Had the client not called me and I not spoken to the airline agent it wouldn't have been solved and they would have changed him a new fare....
Why you ask didn't he do it electronically?? Because Mexicana Airlines doesn't do electronic tickets and that defaulted his ticket to Paper....
We travel agents provide a very good service.... IM quite sure there are crappy agents just like there are fuss budget clients that nothing is ever right as well.......
One lady actually had the gall to come in and sit down at my co workers desk and proceed to ask my co worker how to book her own package online....
My co worker looked at her and asked her if she was serious and the lady replied that she was....My co worker then said I am sorry I cannot help you with that, that's what MY job is...My co worker was very polite about it but very firm.. The lady got pissed off and got up and left.....

So for those of you that think travel agents are ripping you off or are to be used as a library for research....Think again....
Next time one of you gets sick....Why don't you instead of going to your doctor just log onto WEBMD and ask them whets wrong..... let them write your prescription for you.....Its the same with travel...Just pray that on your next trip you don't run into any problems...you just may need a Travel Agent you bail you out....Because with out a Travel Agent, you are on your own!!!

Access-Air
















Remember, Wherever you go, there you are!!!!
 
airbazar
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RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 7:45 am

If you want to fly to an all inclusive in Jamaica, you can take your chances and book yourself....If you want to stay at the right hotel in a city you do not know you need to find a good agent with the right knowledge

That's a double edge sword DI021. How does one know how knowledgable the TA is?
Most TA's in the US (and probably everywhere else), have knowledge of only the kind of places people don't need TA's for. Places like all inclusive resorts and cruises. Walk into any main street Travel Agency and ask them for recommendations for a hotel in Bangkok and I doubt very much they'll be able to provide you with better information than if you were to post that same question on a online buletin board for example.
 
ual747den
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RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 7:46 am

Access-Air,
Yes I believe you are right about the airlines making you charge the fees but if I can book online why pay you?
EDIT:
Sorry I had to run. To continue, travel agents used to "force" airlines to pay them a high commission or they would basically boycott the airline and not sell their tickets. Back then going to a travel agent to book air was pretty much the only way to do it. This forced airlines to raise the prices so that they could pay the agent. Now that we have the net airlines can offer lower fares if you book online because no one has to be paid to do that. Travel agents now have no control over their commissions and they are mad. Access-Air, if something goes wrong with my travel you are not going to be able to help me anymore than what I can do for myself. All that you can do is call the airline and talk to them the same way that I can. I doubt that you are going to get me another flight for free if it came to that. Some people that do not want to deal with the airline directly still will use a travel agent and they should (like old people) but for me I don't know why I would pay you to do something that I could do from my desk.
Now there is one market that the travel agents still have but are loosing. That is charter travel. When I book a spring break trip to PVR I usually want to do it with Sun Trips or Apple Vacations. To do this usually I have to use a TA. Again even the charters are now finding that they do not need to use a TA and that it is cheaper to just have a website. I know that I can now book Sun Trips on the 800 number and that is how I have done it lately.

[Edited 2004-08-05 01:10:34]
/// UNITED AIRLINES
 
jmy007
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RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 7:48 am

Dittos to Acess-Air

I work for a travel wholesale company, and we do have online bookings, but most people who have complex trips want a point person, not a computer. If things go wrong if you book a trip online, with out human contact...Good Luck!


But if you book with a T/A you have someone who can look out for you while on the road.
I tell folks to shop around on the net, see what they can find, and then let me do my job to find better rates. 9 times out of ten I can find them better deals, with service. (Again, if its a trip, not just plane tickets)
Agents are not going anywhere, The store front might, but our jobs are tied with the internet now. And we know how to use it to our advantage!

My 2 cents!
Cookies are the Gateway pastry. They lead to Éclairs and Bear Claws.
 
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Starlionblue
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RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 8:10 am

If you're a businessperson and you don't have the time, use a travel agent.

At my former employer, we had the travel agent in the building. They made sure we followed the corporate travel guidelines and fixed everything. Saved a bundle of time and money for me and my employer.

"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo
 
access-air
Posts: 1576
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RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 8:26 am

Yes and you can post a question on a bulleton board and get 50 different degrees of answers that leave you more confused than when you started..

We in the Travel Agency community have a wonderful (and expensive) directory that is very very ciritcal to all the hotels covered and is updated just like a Jeppesson airport approach plate manual is....We may not have every answer but we have more resources to get you the specifics if you ask We also have the reports from our clients that can and usually tell us how their trips went.......
You all have to rememner that if you are really serious about booking something and not just fishing for free information, a Travel Agent would be more than hapy to assist you....However, If youre there just to get the info and run and book it yourself...dont feel slighted if the agent gives you little or nothing to go on....We have to make a living too... We have had to force ourselves in our agency to not be so free with information because people burn us all the time...I guess people think we survive by some federal funding or the like.......LOL.
We hate charging fees for airline tickets.....But ist the only way we can stay in business....
As for packages....we have no fees for booking those.....they are still the only companies that see a need for us and therefore pay us for our work.
The only time we have any fee attached to a package is if you decide to cancel the trip....then for our time which is worth whatever we took to co-ordinate your trip and all the deatils and any mailiing fees for sending back documents etc...Sure you can buy Cancellation insurance but that does not cover our fees...Why?? Because we dont make a dime if you cancel.. Our commision for you sitting and spending hours at our desk (and there are many that do) whilst you couldnt make up your mind which all-inclusive you wanted is recalled by the tour operator. Just think if you all had to do that kind of stuff by yourself....Yeah you wouldnt have your fee but if you failed to buy the correct insurance to cancel or something irregular happend you might be screwed out of all your money.....Believe me tour companies dont care...if they have your money....We make them accountable.

Consider it like this....
When you book online or direct with airlines etc...it is like havig to go to court without an attorney. If you dont have all the facts or are not armed with the correct information, when its time to travel you might get a nasty surprise...
Some people who choose to book their own Cruises online instead of using a travel agency and find themselves DENIED boarding because they thought they didnt need anything for Identification...Funny that no refunds either...Ignorance is no excuse for denied boarding for improper documentation!!
Had these people booked with a Travel Agent, they would have this very important information and been abel to travel...
Its a bitter pill to swallow, but someone has to learn...

As for me, I take what I do as a Travel Agent very serious....I am meticulous and careful in every detail of what I sell to my clients. I take care of my clients and go the extra mile for them. To call me a rip off artist is a slap in the face...

Access-Air




Remember, Wherever you go, there you are!!!!
 
luv2fly
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RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 8:37 am

Access-Air

Well said, having been both a Travel Agent then District Sales Managers for several tour operators, cruise line and now an all inclusive resort company I hear you loud and clear and thank each and every travel agent out there still doing the job they love......
You can cut the irony with a knife
 
airbazar
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RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 8:58 am

Hey Access-Air, I agree with you, but the only way you're going to survive as a business is by starting to charge for those services. I have no doubt travel agents can offer great services. Usually not for me because I consider researching and booking my travels to be half the fun. But there are a lot of people out there who need or prefers the services and values the services of travel agents.

By the way, people who go on a cruise without identification deserve to be denied boarding  Smile
 
hawaiian717
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RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 1:13 pm

You'd be surprised how many people can't spell their own name right when they book the tickets online. Or book the wrong dates. Or to the wrong state (Newark, NE instead of Newark, NJ for example). Or think they lost their paper tickets when they really had an e-ticket.

I've yet to see a web site that is anywhere near as flexible with travel planning as Apollo/Sabre/etc. The old easySabre probably came closest.

David / MRY
 
ual747den
Posts: 1472
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RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 2:16 pm

If someone doesn't bring an ID, that is because they are stupid, not because they didn't book through a travel agent. If they booked through a travel agent and did the same thing they will still be denied boarding! If a person cant book air travel online because they don't know what state they are going to or how to spell their name, again STUPID!
When you book online or direct with airlines etc...it is like having to go to court without an attorney. If you don't have all the facts or are not armed with the correct information, when its time to travel you might get a nasty surprise...
This is crazy, give me a break! We all book our travel online everyday and when something goes wrong the same thing would have gone wrong if you did it. Please tell me what you do that I don't do when booking. With the way tickets are sold now days if you are a good agent you are probably booking tickets on travelocity and the rest of the online agents to get better deals for your clients. You know nothing more than I do when booking travel and you have no more power than I do if something goes wrong. I know for a fact in most cases you have less power than I do. I know that a lot of airlines and online booking agents will no longer talk with travel agents, they will only talk with the passenger directly.
Now like I said before, there are some people that need a TA to book travel, and in the case of large business' it might be better for them to use a MAJOR agency to book travel, but for the average person there is no reason to go to a travel agent, the only thing that you will get is charged more.
/// UNITED AIRLINES
 
Leskova
Posts: 5547
Joined: Wed Oct 08, 2003 3:39 pm

RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 3:10 pm

Access-Air, first of all, welcome to my Respected Users list.

I work at a consolidator, and we get both online bookings and bookings through travel agents... the percentage of online bookings that we get where the passenger managed to enter data that simply doesn't make sense (passengers with a first name "Sarah" selecting "Mr" as title for example, or someone making two bookings within 5 minutes but entering a different birth date for each booking) is astonishing - the "problem rate" with travel agents is much, much lower.

To some extent I'd say that the inflexibility and, sometimes, idiocy (just to clarify that: 99% of all airline employees that I've dealt with were competent, absolutely willing to help and were very supportive - the other 1% could easily have been replaced by the picture of a person, there would have been no difference) of some airline employees tend to be the best sales arguements I've ever seen for travel agents - and the case I had last week was just one of many...

The company I work for has offices all over the planet - and a person that had bought a ticket to Germany at one of our offices in the US suddenly found himself faced with a problem: Swiss had cancelled his return flight from ZRH to IAD after he had flown from IAD to ZRH sometime earlier this year.

What he did then was, fully in compliance with the conditions of contract between him and Swiss (as well as the contract between Swiss and us), he contacted Swiss by phone to be rerouted - Swiss simply told him to buy a new ticket. He then went to the airport office of Swiss' representative, and they only told him that they couldn't do anything, because the fligh he had simply didn't exist: if he wanted to return home by plane, he'd have to buy a new ticket...

Next, he contacted us (although I have no idea how he ended up on my phone - because I don't even work at our helpdesk... I issue tickets the whole day) and explained the problem and asked me if I could help: it took one phone call from me to Swiss and they immediately issued him a document that allowed him to return to IAD via JFK... so within less than 10 minutes, a travel agency managed to do something that the airline wouldn't do for him for a few months (he'd been trying to get the problem solved through Swiss since late in May/early June).

Unfortunately - or, perhaps, fortunately for us and for travel agencies - I hear about situations like this one from the people working the helpdesk on a daily basis.

So - to sum things up... the best sales arguement for travel agents is: if you don't book through us, you'll have to speak to the airline yourself... and believe me, you really don't want that.

By the way - yes, I know that last part (the arguement for travel agencies) was a bit exaggerated... and considering the volume of tickets we issue I'd say that it still is less than 1% of our passengers that actually have these problems - but, honestly: even one passenger encountering problems such as these is one too many.

If some around here seem to think it's a valid idea to dump all travel agents around the world because of one or two bad experiences, just imagine how many people would be avoiding lots and lots of airlines if the same standard were applied to them!

If someone on a.net complains about bad service from an airline, they're usually met with comments like "don't equate this with the whole airline - that was one bad employee" - yet when it comes to travel agents, one agent seems more than capable of discrediting the whole industry...

Regards,
Frank
Smile - it confuses people!
 
geoffm
Posts: 2082
Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2004 5:58 am

RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 5:16 pm

I think I've been misunderstood. I don't use TAs as a library. They are one point of call on a shopping expedition. If you were buying a car, you wouldn't buy a car from the first showroom just because they helped you. No, you'd look around and find the best deal. Looking up the fares on the internet was that shopping around. Had the TAs found a cheaper or equivalent price, I would have booked with them. But time and time again, they come up with a ridiculously higher fare. The example I quoted was extreme (but true), but on too many other occasions there have been hundreds of pounds difference.

Now, perhaps US travel agents are different from UK travel agents. Most high street TAs in the UK are chains - Thompson (or whatever they're called today), Going Places, Lunn Poly, Thomas Cook etc. The people you tend to find in these places are NOT world-savvy - often young school leavers. Oh, they might have been to Majorca, but to quote Airbazar, they're not going to know a decent hotel in Bangkok. If I go on the internet, I can find reviews of such hotels - NOT the TA-recommended (read: commision-based) ones. And let's not go on about me telling one young lassie about the fact that there are two main international airports close to New York, not one...

Geoff M.
 
JGPH1A
Posts: 15080
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RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 5:31 pm

Geoffm - I would agree with you about UK travel agents - most of the staff at the big chain outlets are very young and inexperienced, and have just about enough basic training to be able to punch the tour code from the brochure into the Teletext monitor to check availablity. Ask them to actually book something not in the brochure and they just stare at you like you're mental. There are good independent travel agents in the UK, who are knowledgeable and are able to create tailor made trips, but they are getting fewer and further between.

I book all of my travel via the internet these days - flights, ferries, trains, cars, hotels - its all available, even if it takes a bit of shopping around. The trick is to use websites to give you an idea of whose cheapest, then go onto Amadeus and fool around looking for the flights that suit you with the right selling classes, quote it to check, then go to the airline website and book the ticket (we're not supposed to book personal travel for ourselves on the system, as were not a travel agency - sometimes I do, and transfer the booking to a corporate inplant down the road, who don't mind issuing the tickets for me). I'm lucky that I can use a GDS to construct and price the travel options I want - websites suck at piecemeal itinerary construction unless you know the exact flight numbers and dates you want before hand.

I haven't actually used a Travel Agent in France yet, haven't needed to. I don't know how good they are.
Young and beautiful and thin and gorgeous AND BANNED ! Cya at airspaceonline.com, losers
 
madness
Posts: 33
Joined: Wed Jul 28, 2004 4:39 am

RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 6:37 pm

GeoffM,

Just one small point- Thomson not Thompson!
 
cragley
Posts: 391
Joined: Tue Jul 20, 2004 6:09 pm

RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 7:03 pm


Hey Geoff.......can I come to where you work, sit in front of you for 2 hours and ask all sorts of questions and waste your time? Even better, how about I come into your work everyday and sit there wasting your time?

You have wasted a travel agents time. You possibly had no intention of booking and were exploiting the qualifications and knowledge of a professional for what? They are there to make a living just as when you go to work you are. What did the agent get for their time? For the privilege of you wasting their time? They could have been making bookings for people that wanted to travel, and not some dreamer. For future reference, do it yourself. Look on the web all you want and smile when you pay £500 for a holiday knowing how intelligent you were outsmarting the agent. Just don't bitch about it when you walk past the agent the next day seeing the same deal for £400.

There are hundreds of wholesalers that agents use. They may not always use the cheapest one. This could be because the cheapest wholesaler might be unreliable, dodgy, or cheap in nature. If you are happy being handed a £500 ticket that is ripped and torn then great. But not everyone is, and at the end of the day its the agent that has to face you and feel confident in the product they are selling you. And if something did go wrong when you got to your destination, do you think a cheapo wholesaler with crappy products would really care what happend to you?
You get what you pay for. If you book online and your holiday goes balls up, then good luck, cause you are on your own.

There are certain agents who do rip people off freely. I worked for one for 2 days and left. Airlines used to pay up to 9% commission on airfares. They now pay 1% and some don't pay commission at all. Everytime an agent makes a booking through their GDS, it costs them money. So how much is the mark up on an airfare? Easy to say that whatever you pay for your airfare, the agent gets 1%. So let me ask you, if you buy clothes, or go shopping for food, does the vender only make 1% profit????

Please give me an example of another private service industry, where you don;t pay for a consultation and professional advise?

If all agents went bust, then where do you get the cheap airfares? The airlines directly?  Smile/happy/getting dizzy
Try calling an airline directly and getting a quote for an airfare to Australia. Now look online at STA travel or flight centre and compare them.
Full published airfare from London to Sydney with Malaysian Airlines GBP999.00 plus tax. Now look at an online agency and compare it  Wink/being sarcastic

If it wasn;t for agencies and online agencies, do you really think the airline would discount? And if so, why?

Certain agencies make so many bookings on 1 airline, that the airline gives that agency and that agency only cheap fares. Also know as Ethnic fares or VFR fares. Try finding an agent that sells VFR fares and you are set.

Good Luck  Smile/happy/getting dizzy
 
lutfi
Posts: 687
Joined: Wed Sep 27, 2000 6:33 pm

RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 7:51 pm

Cragley - buying cars or hi-fi is much the same. Some customers are serious, some just to take a look, others to look then buy online.

Face it - thats a problem all shops face (people coming in, and maybe not buying, but using up your time)

T/A business (for ticket only) sucks. The way to survive is to be very big (consolidator, on line agent) or specialised (tour packager/ niche tour operator/ in house corporate implant etc)

Yes, airlines would discount if there were no T/A - look at Easyjet and Ryannair fares... Why? Because people buy more when it is cheaper.
 
cragley
Posts: 391
Joined: Tue Jul 20, 2004 6:09 pm

RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 8:25 pm

Sorry Lufti

I worked for an airline on ticket desk and agency sales. They don't discount. Why undercut your agent? Your distribution would shrink and would cost you money.

Ryanair and Easyjet have their own booking system and as such don't pay a GDS (to my knowledge). Every sector booked on a place costs the airline money. Its around 25p per sector I believe.
The airlines would have to invent an inhouse CRS and retrain all staff.

That's the difference.

VFR fares are released to certain agents and these fares are the cheapest netts possible.

SO shop around folks  Smile/happy/getting dizzy
 
JGPH1A
Posts: 15080
Joined: Thu Aug 14, 2003 4:36 pm

RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 8:31 pm

Re: Ryanair and Easyjet have their own booking system and as such don't pay a GDS (to my knowledge).

You're right - FR and U2 are not distributed in any GDS. Other LCC's are, mostly those in markets where a single GDS is dominant (eg 1A in Germany / Scandinavia - also down to where the airline is hosted and who is their website provider - 1A provides websites to a lot of LCCs in Scandinavia and Northern Europe)

GDS's are trying hard to attract the big LCC players into the GDS, with drastically reduces segment fees, enhanced booking automation etc to reduce the need for the LCC to monitor and service bookings. After all, selling air segments is our bread and butter, and LCC's sell HUGE numbers of air segments and from a GDS point of view would require very little high-tech investment. Bookings are simple, point to point or round trip, fare structures are simple, ticketing is universal e-ticket or better yet, ticketless, only very limited types of changes can be made - for a GDS, this is heaven !
Young and beautiful and thin and gorgeous AND BANNED ! Cya at airspaceonline.com, losers
 
geoffm
Posts: 2082
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RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 8:35 pm

Cragley - try reading the entire post. One sentence in particular: "Had the TAs found a cheaper or equivalent price, I would have booked with them". I have *never" spent more than about 10 minutes in a travel agents - I come armed with basic ideas of what I want, where I want, and when I want to go. Then I ask them to price it up, thank them, and then repeat the process myself at home. I am not paying £600 extra for a "consultation, administration, or commission" fee.

And protection if things go wrong? That's what IATA, ABTA, ATOL, and travel insurance are all about. I have yet to get a duff deal - but my family have had duff deals from "reputable" travel agents in the past. Sure, my time will come, just the same as TAs will find good holidays. You can't say TAs are never going to get you a duff holiday, similarly you can't say booking yourself is more likely to get you a duff holiday. Research, that's all it takes.

Geoff M.
 
madness
Posts: 33
Joined: Wed Jul 28, 2004 4:39 am

RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 8:42 pm

Research is all very well.

But what used to really annoy me as a travel agent was when people used ro wander in and help themselves to tons of brochures, id ask them if they wanted any help, and they reply "no thanks, we've seen some places on the internet and want to have a look at the hotels".

Nice.

If I had a travel agency now I would charge for brochures, then deduct the amount from their holiday when they actually booked with us.

 
JGPH1A
Posts: 15080
Joined: Thu Aug 14, 2003 4:36 pm

RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 8:49 pm

Re: If I had a travel agency now I would charge for brochures.

I think that would be the final nail in the coffin - a business charging potential customers to view their advertising material ! It would like charging a fee to go onto a booking engine website before you even start looking for flights.

Brochures are adverstising material, nothing more. I have heard in the UK that travel agencies are charged by some tour operators for their brochures, which strikes me as insane.

Young and beautiful and thin and gorgeous AND BANNED ! Cya at airspaceonline.com, losers
 
madness
Posts: 33
Joined: Wed Jul 28, 2004 4:39 am

RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 9:05 pm

Some independent private travel agents already charge for their brochures.

If you consider how much it costs Tour Op's to produce millions of these gloosy, thick brochures, it makes sense that they charge travel agencies for them.

Obviously if a Tour Op is the sister company of the agency they do not charge for their own brochures - i.e Going Places - MyTravel, Thomas Cook - JMC, Lunn Poly - Thomson etc.


Travel Agents still have their place in the sense that they still offer the friendly and personal interface that you just dont get on the internet.
I have worked as both an internet and retail travel agent, and although each has its advantages you cant beat meeting different people every day, and seeing the excitement on the families faces as they look through the holiday brochures.
 
geoffm
Posts: 2082
Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2004 5:58 am

RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 9:16 pm

Re: brochures - I'd understand paying a token amount for them, as those thick glossy brochures aren't cheap. Getting the money back if you actually book a holiday with them would sweeten the deal somewhat. Think of the environment too.

However, what the brochures don't do is give you very much information. Rather than give a short description of 10 hotels, I'd much rather a fuller description of 3 - a three star, a four star, and a five star. Perhaps more selective destinations would also be an advantage - don't try to squeeze the entire USA into one brochure, for example. I am aware that there are some more regional ones.

Geoff M.
 
madness
Posts: 33
Joined: Wed Jul 28, 2004 4:39 am

RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 9:27 pm

Thats a good idea, but then reducing the number of hotels featured would defeat the point.
You would then need more brochures to cover one country, meaning more paper, more cost for tour op and agent, and inevitably the customer.

Perhaps thats where internet agency sites have the advantage, they are not as restricted by space.

There are some excellent sites attached to retail travel agents mind you,
www.thomascookbroadband.co.uk is excellent, it has videos of the resorts and hotels.


 
electraBob
Posts: 918
Joined: Tue Sep 23, 2003 3:11 am

RE: Travel Agents:

Thu Aug 05, 2004 10:20 pm

I am going on my 12th year as a travel agent...I work for a very small, 2 person agency in a suburb on the west side of Detroit. We have been so busy for the past few months, we have hired a part time person to help answer the phones during business hours. Our business is not coming from flunky retirees who are to dumb to be able to turn on a computer....I personally have booked 15 honeymoon trips during the past month. I have also booked over 20 cruises during the same time period to couples of all different ages. Airline tickets....I sold 5 yesterday alone that were full fare transatlantic trips on Northwest....we received a 5% commission on all of them.

Travel agencies are dying??...I hate to tell you, the one I work for will be here for many years to come.

UAL747DEN -- Take a good look at the first three letters of your username and honestly tell me who has been ripping people off for years. Your comment about travel agents pushing high priced tickets to make more commissions is one of the biggest pieces of bullcrap I have ever read on this forum.
Having a smoking section in a restaurant is like having a peeing section in a swimming pool.....
 
access-air
Posts: 1576
Joined: Thu Sep 21, 2000 5:30 pm

RE: Travel Agents:

Fri Aug 06, 2004 3:03 am

AMEN ElectraBob.....
Our agency is small too. We have two full time agents two parttime and a one person branch office...I have been with this company for the past 16 years and for turds like UAL747DEN to make a blanket statement about all travel agents shows what kind of immature person he is.....what was he doing 16 years ago??? He was in grade school.....
He in no way is qualified to make any statements.....

Actually in 1996 had Delta Air Lines not initiated cutting travel agency commissions we probabaly wouldnt be having this whole speal here...

I consider myself to be very skilled at what I can do...I have the title as Ticketing Procedure Specialist in our office. I am the person the other agenst come to for answers here in our office.
I am the only one in the office that is willing to handwrite an airline ticket if it needs to be done.... Lets see UAL747DEn sit down and handwrite an airline ticket....
I am self taught in this business and I NEVER Had to go to travel school...Airlines are my life....and I have made it my career. So until UAL747DEN can actually sit behind an Apollo Computer system and sell travel for living he needs to stifle his mouth!!!

Access-Air
Remember, Wherever you go, there you are!!!!
 
richierich
Posts: 3288
Joined: Sat Nov 04, 2000 5:49 am

RE: Travel Agents:

Fri Aug 06, 2004 4:41 am

Let's face it, travel agents are middlemen and the internet is the tool that allows people to avoid the middleman.

I'm sure the number of travel agencies has dropped dramatically over the last 10 years, with the advent of the internet. There really is no need to go to a travel agent anymore- search engines like travelocity and orbitz do the work for you. Personally, I like going to all of the airlines' websites and see what deals they have too. Airlines cut commission payments because it was an expense they no longer needed to pay; passengers are still able to book via internet and phone.

There will be a need for some travel agents for many years yet. There is a certain segment of the traveling population who are not internet savvy or think computers are 'unsafe'. Some people like the face-to-face contact when booking a vacation and believe a TA will help them out if something goes wrong with their travel plans. There are always the honeymooners that want package deals not easily available through the internet. And some business travel is solely handled through travel agencies. But is basically a niche market and it is getting smaller and smaller all the time.

I wouldn't want to be a travel agent right now. Airlines have cut or no longer pay commission and the TA perks are almost non-existent. It is a dying profession.

None shall pass!!!!
 
MSP12R
Posts: 31
Joined: Sat Mar 20, 2004 9:44 am

RE: Travel Agents:

Fri Aug 06, 2004 5:39 am

Let me share my perspective as a travel agency user.

I travel for my job all the time. I also consider myself pretty capable when it comes to shopping for and booking my own tickets by phone or Internet and finding the best combination of price and itinerary. However, my organization requires me to book all of my travel (including air travel, rental cars and hotels) through a travel agency. The reasons strike me as pretty sound: Our company has almost 1,000 field staff who travel regularly. Using the agency allows them to get just a few large bills each month instead of having to sort through hundreds of credit card receipts. Also, by taking the booking and approval process out of my hands, they are able to ensure that my travel costs and decisions comply with company policies. So, I understand why we have to use the agents. Having said all that, I believe that the added value of using an agent accrues to my organization and not to me personally or to my productivity.

The agency I deal with typically has a phone hold time of 2-10 minutes (and sometimes longer - I recall holding for 35 minutes once and then having my cell phone drop the call just as the agent came on the line. I almost lost it!) before I can even speak to an agent. In addition, I have found that agents at the agency we use will often suggest more expensive and less convenient itineraries than I can find myself on the Internet. So, whenever I can do it, I shop on my own and have specific flight numbers, times and fare codes handy so I can prompt the agent to get me the itinerary that is actually cheaper and most convenient. In addition, once I have booked through the agent, all my reservations must be approved by our own internal travel department - a process which further adds to the time and hassle of booking travel (but is not the fault of the travel agency or its agents).

So, in summary - I'm sure that requiring us to use a travel agency is the responsible thing for my organization to do, but it is a total pain for me and I wish almost daily that I didn't have to do it.

I am convinced that as long as there are organizations like mine (large enough to have significant travel needs but too small to do it all in-house) that there is a future for travel agencies.

I have no experience with retail travel agencies who do work helping people to book their leisure travel.

-MSP12R
MSP - where the DC 9s and DC 10s make their last stand
 
User avatar
EA CO AS
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RE: Travel Agents:

Fri Aug 06, 2004 7:56 am

Let's face it, travel agents are middlemen and the internet is the tool that allows people to avoid the middleman.

Amen.

I respect travel agents, but the bottom line is that they're no longer the (expensive) necessity airlines once relied upon to distribute their product. We're not talking about a person going to court without an attorney or someone attempting to buy or sell a home without a realtor - two scenarios where you take HUGE risks if you go it alone - we're talking about travel planning.

It's not rocket science, which is now why millions of people each day organize their own plans online, at a lower cost than if the airlines relied on professional travel agencies earning commissions.

In turn, this permits the airline to continue offering the discounted airfares the traveling public craves - the savings are passed on.

What UAL747DEN says isn't entirely inaccurate - there was a time where agencies acted like mercenaries, hitting up air carriers for FAM trips, expecting airlines to offer catered lunches when conducting visits from sales reps and other costly freebies in exchange for selling one carrier over another.

And of course, they also got their 10% commission on each ticket's value.

Those days are over, and if a person wants to benefit from a travel agent's expertise, there is no problem with expecting them to pay a service charge to receive it.

Of course, since most people are concerned with paying as little as possible, many people who would have once used an agency now do it themselves online - and for the most part, it goes off without a hitch. There ARE, of course, the occasional hiccups where a customer books themselves multiple times, or to the wrong city, types their names in backwards, etc...but in the grand scheme of things, these problems are few and far between.

"In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem - government IS the problem." - Ronald Reagan

Comments made here are my own and are not intended to represent the official position of Alaska Air Group
 
electraBob
Posts: 918
Joined: Tue Sep 23, 2003 3:11 am

RE: Travel Agents:

Fri Aug 06, 2004 9:58 am

What UAL747DEN says isn't entirely inaccurate - there was a time where agencies acted like mercenaries, hitting up air carriers for FAM trips, expecting airlines to offer catered lunches when conducting visits from sales reps and other costly freebies in exchange for selling one carrier over another.

Agents used to hit up air carriers for FAM trips? Really?? I have never seen an airline sponsored FAM trip. FAM's are offered by tour companies who use chartered aircraft. FAMs are offered by the tour companies at very, very slow times of the year, usually May and November. Northwest Airlines offered many agencies in the Detroit area a pre-opening tour of the new McNamara Terminal at DTW before it opened....you may consider this a FAM trip...not quite.

Travel agencies expected airlines to offer catered lunches when conducting visits from sales reps.....HUH! Most airline reps are hired right out of college...they come into our office giving us information that we have found out by ourselves months before. Most last approx. 6 months before they either move to a new location or are replaced. Catered lunches??? where the hell was I when these lunches were being served?? Other costly freebies...name one...oh, I did get an authentic Northwest Airlines frisbie at a travel show once...oh yes, I also received a NWA notepad and a Delta Air Lines razor-blade letter opener. Must have cost them a fortune. Airlines have at times given discounted travel vouchers to agencies...being able to use them is not as easy as you may think.

Since I work in the Detroit area and since Northwest Airlines controls 75-80% of the seats out of Detroit Metropolitan Airport, I must admit...I sell more Northwest than any other airline....wonder why.
Having a smoking section in a restaurant is like having a peeing section in a swimming pool.....
 
baw716
Posts: 1460
Joined: Thu Nov 20, 2003 7:02 pm

RE: Travel Agents:

Fri Aug 06, 2004 4:44 pm

Hi everyone,
I own my own travel consulting business (yes I sell airline tickets and other services) and I have read a great many of the comments on this thread.

There are some very well stated comments and there are some that, shall we say, are somewhat lacking in forethought. Having been in the industry some 26 years now (17 as a travel agent and 9 as an airline manager), I think I have a little perspective to add to this discussion.

First, everybody needs to get a reality check. The internet has fundamentally changed the way travel is sold, period. From a vendor perspective and especially for the airlines, it has become an excellent vehicle for improving efficiencies in the selling of air transportation, and it has become, perhaps the third largest cost saving for airlines, behind labor and fuel. I absolutely do not begrudge the airlines at all for doing what is best for their business. Change is good. It is also good for the travel agents.

The position that the older (and frankly smaller) travel agencies have taken is that the carriers, particularly in the US have robbed them of their livelihood. That is absolutely not the case. The airlines have, over a course of several years, reduced commissions to travel agencies as the economics of internet sales became such that there was no need for travel agencies to be paid a base commission for their sales. The theory was that the average travel agent did not direct the sale, they just booked what was convenient for the customer. There was no preferential selling of the airline product going on. What should an airline pay a travel agent for being an order taker? Short answer is...they should not have to.

Those forward thinking agency companies changed their business models and began to charge their customer a fee for their service. Hence, when the basic commission structure went away, those companies already had a different revenue stream to rely upon and did not take a hit. Those companies that did not either understand the reality or refused to believe it were suddenly out of business. My friends, that is free enterprise.

Contrary to what some of you have said, there is a market for the travel agent. Actually, let me restate that: There is a market for the travel CONSULTANT. There are a number of reasons for this, but the fundamental one is that not everyone likes to, or wants to book their travel over the internet. This is especially so in the international marketplace. There is also a need for SERVICE. I do not mean order taking, but providing advice, counsel, research analysis and presenting options for the end user, then procuring the arrangements and providing them to the customer at the least possible cost and the greatest possible value.

There are a number of you who have stated that you don't need a travel agent. That's perfectly OK. However, when you get stuck in an airport because of a weather delay and the airline has left you stranded in the middle of the night with no viable way to continue your journey and no responsibility for doing anything other than rebooking you on another flight, who are you going to call? Unless you are VERY knowledgeable about the workings of an airline, both in reservations and at the airport, not many of you would know exactly what to do to arrange a reissue of a FIM because the CSR agent who booked them who had been getting pummeled for an hour before dealing with the client sent them to the wrong place. That is where I come in (or rather where the experts come in).

The vast majority of people do not know how to handle themselves in an airport and because they do not know, they get scared, they get frustrated and guess who are the people who get beat up? Its the poor customer service agent who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then the service is bad because the agent is tired and beat up mistreats the passenger and round and round it goes....

We provide service. We give reassurance that when there is a problem, we can either get it fixed or provide some alternate arrangement so that people's vacations are not ruined, or someone's multi-million dollar deal doesn't blow up because they can't get out of someplace.

What I have described to you is just a small piece of what the "elite" travel consultants do. Guess what? I charge for that service, and believe me, people pay it without hesitation.

I can name hundreds of clients who I have helped to have a great honeymoon, a great vacation, a successful business trip, visiting friends and relatives and, in some very sad cases; rushing a client to Europe to see his dying father, helping parents whose child had died get back home to be with their family. For those of you that say we do not have value to people are missing the entire point (and I am being very polite and restrained when I say this).

The travel industry has changed, is changing and is going to continue changing. Those that do not stay ahead of the changes in the industry are going to be out of business. This is as true for certain legacy carriers that I know of (and used to work for), because they refused to deal with the radical shift that low cost carriers brought to the industry at the same time as the collapse of an economy and a terrorist action unprecedented in its scope.

The good news is that, for as many travel agents whose time has come to find another line of work, as many people are getting into the business. They bring a new mind set, one that is focused on providing the customer with tools to do research, engines to do bookings, and yes, consultants to provide counsel and fulfillment when a customer decides they are not comfortable doing it themselves.

My business is specifically positioned this way. In accordance with the rules of this forum, I am not giving my name, nor the name of my company. Shortly, I am relaunching my site which will have both a very robust booking engine for those who are interested in doing their own arrangements, a booking engine for special non-published airfares, and one for cruises and packages. I am also offering three different levels of service: One for the internet user, when they need help or support, another for most people who need some level of counsel and assistance in procurement and a top level for those people who want someone else to take care of the arrangements for them. Each one has its own fee structure and deposit requirements. Since I ask for a deposit, I also guarantee my work.

Oh and guess what? I am my own business. My brand has been spreading over the internet for the past two years, my advertising is taking a new direction this year and with the leading edge web technology and booking engines, I can either sit back and let the dollars come in from the people who wish to get a "deal" on their travel, or I can work with the people who really need and appreciate the help. Either way, I make money. I have specific specialties, notably international air, since I have vast experience in airline sales, pricing and tariffs, so I am able to work a little magic with ticketing. There is room both for the large corporate agencies as well as the small entrepreneurs like myself who are creative enough to take the opportunity that the airlines have given us and turn it into something really profitable. I do this myself from my home, so I can work and take care of myself at the same time. The technology allows me the liberty to do that.

We are all here to help one another. Every one of us are knowledgeable people who love the airline business. I wish I could be back there. However, I got hurt and can't for the foreseeable future, regain employment with an airline. For that I am more sad than you can possibly know. However, I do not dwell on my problems, I focus on my solutions. I worked for United and lost my ESOP money (all $40K of it). I am losing my United pension now. So I have to revisit my retirement savings investments. Do you see me whining about that in my posts? NO! Am I going to blame United for not having the foresight or wisdom to see the problem BEFORE it happened? NO! Why, because it makes no difference, the money is gone and sitting around blaming people for it is not going to help me replace it! I built up a franchise for a major European airline and brought service to a city that had NEVER seen business from that airline direct. We were successful on the west coast, until 9/11. After that, we had to pull down everything. I had to let go of my staff and myself. Do you hear me whining? NO! WHY? Those events were beyond my control. I could not change them myself, nor could I changed the injuries I suffered which forced me out at the same time I closed our office.

So I went into business on my own. I have taken and built my business from nothing and, yes, it is small, but it is mine and it is growing. Just like those of you who are working for airlines who are figuring out how to survive and prosper, travel agents are doing the same thing.

On and by the way, I am still paid commissions by airlines. I receive compensation for directionally selling business onto a few key airlines. For that, I receive compensation from the airlines as well as my clients. Travel agents still account for over half the airline sales in this country and for the moment, airlines feel there is value in supporting those that support them the most. THIS IS THE WAY IT SHOULD BE.

I cannot possibly state this point stronger: PLEASE, PLEASE before you put fingers to the keyboard, THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE SAYING. I bear no ill will toward anyone in this forum, and I truly trust that those that read my posts have some respect for my knowledge, notwithstanding my lack of brevity.

So I close by saying this. Cast not the first stone, for what goes around, comes around. If you do good by people, it will come back to you in success and happiness. If you do ill, well, lets just say the rock you threw, will come back your way...and ducking it won't help you.

Let's all work together for the betterment of our airlines and our industry. PLEASE!

baw716
David L. Lamb, fmr Area Mgr Alitalia SFO 1998-2002, fmr Regional Analyst SFO-UAL 1992-1998
 
N6376M
Posts: 2310
Joined: Tue Aug 12, 2003 12:54 am

RE: Travel Agents:

Fri Aug 06, 2004 9:24 pm

As a very frequent business traveller, I can tell you that a good travel agent is worth their weight in gold.

My travel agent has been able to get me out of any number of jams when weather, mechanical problems or just dumb luck have substantially interfered with my travel plans. He's steered me toward better hotels at lower rates than I could find myself and handled the leg work on all sorts of problems.

Could I save a couple of bucks by booking every trip myself - absolutely. Is my time worth more than $20/hour - absolutely (he charges between $15 and $30 dollars for airline tickets depending on the complexity of the itinerary). Given the amount of time you have to wait on hold "for the next available operator" whenever you need to deal with a problem that can't be handled on-line, my travel agent more than pays for his services.

He also knows that if he doesn't find me good values, I'll eventually be forced to take my business elsewhere. While nobody can dispute that eliminating / reducing travel agent commissions helped boost airline bottom lines, nobody can argue with the fact that paying a seasoned professional to due their job is a bad proposition.

Like with anything else, technology changed the industry. Travel agents now need to learn to adapt to the new landscape. I do whatever possible to keep my guy in business, even if that means throwing him a bone by having him book a simple domestic ticket - I know that the day that the economics get so bad that he can't stay in business will be the day that I really realize how much he served me.

 
baw716
Posts: 1460
Joined: Thu Nov 20, 2003 7:02 pm

RE: Travel Agents:

Fri Aug 06, 2004 10:59 pm

N6376m

Thank you for your comments. You go right to the heart of the matter I put into more than excruiating detail.

You really are getting a deal if he is charging you only $15-30 per ticket. My minimum service fee is $50 (industry average is about $40-75) and I generally get between $75-100 per ticket. However, I only do international (unless they are an established client and they really need help) and I have a money back guarantee tied to my fees. I reduce or waive my fees on other services where the commission rate is really high and there is not a need to charge the customer so much.

My fees may sound outrageous; however, you made the point: We must have the technology in order to stay competitive. Unfortunately, to have the technology to really do the job the way you would want us to is not cheap. With technology moving at the speed of light; its hard to keep up.
David L. Lamb, fmr Area Mgr Alitalia SFO 1998-2002, fmr Regional Analyst SFO-UAL 1992-1998
 
geoffm
Posts: 2082
Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2004 5:58 am

RE: Travel Agents:

Fri Aug 06, 2004 11:39 pm

Crikey, well my comments were based on UK travel agents. Obviously there seems to be some sort of a gulf between what UK operators will do and what US operators will do. Apologies if I offended anyone, as I say it was based on UK travel agent experiences.

Geoff M.