This article was published on March 31st, 2019
With the recent grounding of the Boeing 737 Max 8 fleet globally it has never been clearer why you should book with a travel agent. With 400 flights grounded worldwide and the airlines only dealing with the routes and re-bookings a week at a time answers are hard to come by. Hold times with the airlines are hours long, and even if you get through, they may not have a plan for your flight yet.
In come the travel agents. The moment the news came in, they were able to go into their booking system and pull all flights that were on the 737 Max 8. Instantly they spring into action calling each airline to see what the reprotection policy is. Within minutes they are armed with the waiver codes to change the flights, and on the phones with their clients. Guess what? You probably weren’t even aware your flight was grounded until you were called with options. Your agent just saved you countless hours, and tonnes of frustration and misinformation. Travel agents are armed with industry knowledge so know your rights when these situations happen. They know how to ask the right questions to get the solution started as quickly as possible.
Travel agents use the same system to book flights as the airlines. For those old enough to remember DOS, the program that houses all flight information in the world looks like an old school DOS program, equipped with cryptic commands and everything. People don’t understand that when you book online the system is still pulling information and booking it in that old DOS based system. This is actually why all the third-party sites basically say, ‘until a person double checks that this price is valid your flight may not be booked.’ This doesn’t happen a lot, but it does happen often enough that every agent has a story of trying to save someone who booked online.
A great example is a traveler who books a flight on a cheap travel website. In the terms and conditions, it said ‘Please note that the price will be revalidated before booking, and you will be notified if there is any discrepancy’. This traveler went to do web check-in 24 hours before his flight, he could not find his flight at all. He called the third-party website, waited hours to get through, and was told that when they went to book it the price was a few hundred more. They did their due diligence according to the terms and e-mailed him the updated price with a button to click to book. Unfortunately, the email went to his junk mail, and he didn’t see it. All he had seen was the original confirmation. The website would not honour his flight even at the slightly higher price, and told him he was out of luck, or had to pay almost a thousand dollars more, the current rate for that same flight. Being a student, he popped into a travel agency to get help, and was able to find a better fare, albeit still much higher then he originally agreed to, since it was last minute. These stories are far too common.
People want to see more adventurous destinations, more Instagram worthy vistas, they want to delve more into cultures and experiences. Often these more complicated trips need to be booked with a professional to make sure the whole experience can be had. Ultimately travel agents are there to help you book those perfect Instagram worthy, bucket list trips. They will provide a wealth of information about visa requirements, travel times, places to see, things to do, safety information, etc. And if things do go wrong, you’ll have a person you know available by phone or e-mail quickly. You won’t have to wait on hold for 6 hours for answers.
Find a travel agent that understands your style of travel, someone who is knowledgeable, and experienced. You won’t’ regret it.