This travel tip may be “too soon” for people who have already traveled this summer. If you were one of the millions affected by the countless delays and cancellations in the airline industry, I’m sorry.
I’m going to continue anyway, as the tips can help reduce future stats just a hair. One of the most common and completely justified gripes among air travelers in recent times has been the difficulty of reaching an airline when issues need to be resolved.
So slow. So confused. Sometimes without any help when you finally succeed. As you might have guessed from the title, there is actually a not-so-hidden, but not-very-well-understood way to remove all that drama from the travel booking experience.
This solution ? It’s a bit analog, a bit retrograde and you need some good manners to seal the deal. And no, the solution does not require upgrades. It is simply a matter of using a travel agency to book your flights. It can be invaluable.
How travel agents save the day with flights
Travel agents – the good ones, that is – have teams behind them and supporting them. Most agents work through a larger agency or with the support of incredibly strong networks of benefits and access.
This is important because when an airline cancels a flight leaving you in trouble or changes your itinerary, travel agents have the power to handle this for you, on your behalf.
In most cases, travel agents have an “airline team”, which maintains relationships with the airlines to handle everything on your behalf. Sometimes they can even “bend” the rules.
These “air crews” don’t need to speak to the airline at all in most cases, as they can access the backend of a booking and make authorized changes according to the airline’s rules. If you’re already bored, here’s the message: you don’t have to deal with drama.
The catch: you need an agent willing to deal with you
I use a travel agent for most of my trips. It doesn’t matter if I’ve written books with blog posts on finding deals or best practices for booking hotels and flights.
I use one because they get me better perks at some hotels than elite status in many cases, not being loyal, and because if an airline screws up my itinerary, I don’t have to take care.
The catch for most people reading this, maybe even you, is that you need an agent who is willing to deal with you, to take advantage of this often invaluable benefit. Finding one can be easy, and it can also be difficult.
Agents like a good relationship, but they also work on commission. The more you book, which makes them money, the more they will be willing to do business with you. If you only book the cheapest flights and never book hotels, you may have problems with the agent.
If you like to take great trips and don’t always use your points for hotels, there will be more agents. And hi agents, feel free to use the comments section to add your details, if you are looking for clients.
Choose a great agent
Assuming you are a decent customer, there are agents to choose from. Having an agent with access to Virtuoso privileges, as well as benefits programs with major hotel chains is a good start.
Look for agents with access to benefits at hotels around the world that don’t require you to be a loyal customer. Having an agent with an airline support desk is also important. You want someone who has a team that can make changes on the fly, to move you forward.
It also never hurts when the agent or agency has a relationship with its partners. If you have an airline support team that is a big customer of the airline you are flying with, they will be able to do more “magic” than others.
Travel Agents: Highly Competitive Game Changers
Look, I hate waiting on hold. I hate having to beg phone agents to get authorized changes actually authorized. It sucks the joy out of traveling. Having a travel agent and their teams take care of these things for you is a game changer.
Keep in mind that you generally pay the same price as everyone else. Commissions paid by agents usually come from the hotel or airline, not from the customer side. On flights, this is almost always true. On hotels, this is especially true.
If you are able to find an agent willing to work with you, remember that good clients get great service. Giving the agent more of your trip (rather than just flights) will help build a two-way relationship. Once you’re in, you don’t want to get out.