Why Bother With Travel Agents?

By | June 4, 2009
The Gnome
Image by randomcuriosity via Flickr

Why bother with Travel Agents? That is the big question. We recall the experience, from long ago, of going to the travel agency. Sitting at a desk, paper tickets were brought out, a check given, and the transaction was complete. Nowadays, we have electronic ticketing, a myriad of travel agency websites(and don’t kid yourself, that is what Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, etc are…travel agents), and the power to shop around. The special fares only these elite groups have access to are more and more limited. Without commissions, they have to make their money off of you, not the airline.

The answer is this…a good travel agent is worth their weight in gold. A bad one is a disaster waiting to happen. So, what are the characteristics of a good travel agent?

  • Knowledgeable – This is essential. We can’t all have someone with the knowledge of a Cranky Flier at our beck and call. They don’t need to know everything. The important thing is to have a good base knowledge, and to be able to do the research to find out the rest.
  • Willing – Travel Agents provide a service. That service is not merely buying plane tickets and making hotel reservations.  If at the first sign of trouble, your agent is unavailable, or tells you to call the airline or hotel to resolve the issue, they are not earning their keep. If you wanted someone to just sell you the tickets, then you could have bought them yourself.
  • Guarantees – What guarantees does the travel agent give you if there is a problem? Some of them aren’t worth the paper they are printed on, if you believe some experiences. Buy the travel insurance, if they offer it.

The big online agencies…Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity…have just permanently discontinued many fees. All are dropping booking fees, but all but Expedia make an exception for bookings on multiple airlines. These reservations often cannot be booked on the website of either carrier as they are sometimes little more than two separate independent fares put together on the same ticket. Expedia is dropping service fees on changing reservations as well. It is interesting to see how the big boys will make money. We do predict one thing from them….more attempts to absolve themselves of responsibility and send all problems to the airline, hotel, or car organization they sold on behalf of.

For the local brick and mortar travel agencies…if they are willing to do the work to answer your questions and when problems occur as part of the service they provide to you, then you have found a good travel agent. If they are willing to do the work and are bursting with experience and knowledge, then you have a great travel agent.

We wish we could point you to a good directory of such agents, but to our knowledge, no such directory exists.

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Author: Guru

Guru is the Editor of Flight Wisdom and a long time aviation enthusiast.