The rise, fall and rise of the travel agent

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Josh Martin is a London-based journalist who writes about business and travel related topics.

OPINION: My Flight Cancellation Compensation Saga (where I’m definitely right) continues, as expected.

Low-cost airline Ryanair is doing what it does best, overwhelming customers beleaguered with obfuscation, half-answers and very slow responses. No phone number, no human contact, no hold on aviation law. All part of the service.

And while I’m not yet ready to involve the nearly toothless aviation regulator to weigh in on my fate against a brazen violation of ticket terms and conditions, it would be nice if someone fought my patch. An agent. Agent specializing in the travel and vacation industry. Let’s call them a travel agent… remember those smiling guys and girls? I know some of them are still fidgeting. Mainly online.

READ MORE:
* The Rise of All-Inclusive Vacations: Why Kiwis Are Turning to Packages
* ‘Bonkers’ plane tickets: Why you might be out of luck if you want to get home for Christmas
* How to deal with an airline or hotel chatbot – and how to get a human

In fact, industry data in the United States this year indicates a slight increase in the share of vacation bookings made through an online travel agency (OTA) versus directly with an airline.

Whether this was due to a cheaper airfare and vacation package quote model or better service was not specified.

The new reality of increased travel uncertainty may have saved the careers of industrious agents who still view it as a service industry (file photo)

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The new reality of increased travel uncertainty may have saved the careers of industrious agents who still view it as a service industry (file photo)

My recent attempt to correct a baggage reservation error I just made through my OTA resulted in a long chorus of music playlists from the call center and an eventual response of “contact the airline yourself and you’ll have to pay the (huge) fees”. However, the less spotted travel agent in the flesh is more likely to help you out.

My mother-in-law’s favorite recent anecdote about service above and beyond is when, in the hours before her flight from Palmerston North to Auckland before embarking on a global trip, her travel agent s went to the airport and handed over printed copies of Covid travel documents, locator forms and test results just to add to his peace of mind.

It pays off in customer loyalty.

For her 2023 trip, my polished plane ticket hacking skills were left behind in favor of Angela, the travel agent who literally went the extra mile.

The fallout from Covid has led to higher airfares. It also means cancellations, so there’s more money on the line if (when?) things go wrong. If you have to pay a little extra on already high airfares, try to think of it as a form of insurance against the fine print of the airlines and the nonsense of the call centers, necessary for more expensive purchases in these still times. uncertain for travel when cancellations and chaotic airport queues are back in full force.

Hard truths about how we buy remain.

The For Lease signs from my local STA Travel and House of Travel stores still stick to the window. Of course, it’s a mountain to climb if travel agents, who once had a strong presence on high streets and malls, ever return to the mainstream – the Covid pandemic has decimated the industry and has was seen by some as the final nail in the coffin for the job.

In fact, the consequences and new reality of increased travel uncertainty may have saved the careers of the few workers who still view it as a service industry.

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