This travel tip may be “too soon” for people who’ve already traveled this summer. If you were one of the millions impacted by the enumerable delays and cancellations in the airline industry, I’m sorry.
I’m going to carry on anyway, because the advice may help lower future statistics, just a hair. One of the most common, totally justified gripes among air travelers lately has been how painful it’s been to reach an airline when problems need rectifying.
So slow. So confusing. Sometimes, without any help when you finally get through. As you may have guessed from the title, there’s actually a not so hidden, but not very well understood way to remove all that drama from the travel booking experience.
That solution? It’s a bit analog, a bit of a throwback and you need some manners to seal the deal. And no, the solution isn’t begging for upgrades. It’s just using a travel agent to book your flights. Doing so can be priceless.
How Travel Agents Save The Day With Flights
Travel agents — good ones, that is — have teams behind them and supporting them. Most agents work via a bigger agency, or with support of incredibly strong networks of perks and access.
This matters, because when an airline cancels a flight leaving you scrambling, or makes a change to your itinerary, travel agents have the power to handle this for you, on your behalf.
In most cases, travel agents have an “air team”, who have relationships with airlines to process everything on your behalf. Sometimes, they can even “bend” rules.
These “air teams” don’t need to speak to the airline at all in most cases, since they can go into the backend of a booking and make permitted changes as per airline rules. If you’re already bored, here’s the message: you don’t have to deal with the drama.
The Catch: You Need An Agent Willing To Deal With You
I use a travel agent for as much of my travel as possible. It doesn’t matter that I’ve written books worth of blog posts on finding deals, or best practices for booking hotels and flights.
I use one because they bring me better benefits at select hotels than elite status would in many cases, without being loyal, and because if an airline screws up my itinerary, I don’t have to deal with it.
The catch for most people reading this, perhaps even you, is that you need an agent who is willing to deal with you, to enjoy this often priceless perk. Finding one can be easy, and it can also be hard.
Agents love a good relationship, but they also work on commission. The more you book that makes them money, the more willing they’re going to be to deal with you. If you only book the cheapest flights and never book hotels, you may have trouble on the agent front.
If you happily take some nice trips and don’t always use points for hotels, agents are going to be more plentiful. And hey agents, feel free to use the comments section to add your contact info, if you’re looking for clients.
Picking A Great Agent
Assuming you’re a decent client, you may have agents to choose from. Having an agent with access to Virtuoso privileges, as well as benefit programs with major hotel chains is a great start.
Look for agents with access to perks at hotels everywhere, that don’t require you to be a loyal guest. Having an agent with an air support desk is big too. You want someone who has a team who can make changes on the fly, to keep you moving.
It never hurts when the agent, or agency has a relationship with their partners either. If you have an air support team who is a huge client of the airline you’re flying, they’ll be able to make more “magic” happen than others.
Travel Agents: Highly Competitive Game Changers
Look, I hate waiting on hold. I hate having to plead to phone agents to make allowed changes actually be allowed. It sucks the joy out of travel. Having a travel agent and their teams take care of these things for you is a game changer.
Keep in mind: you typically pay the same price as everyone else. Commission made by agents generally comes from the hotel or airline side, not from the customer side. On flights, that’s almost always true. On hotels, it’s mostly true.
If you’re able to find an agent willing to work with you, remember that great clients get great service. Giving the agent more of your trip (rather than just flights) will help with a two way relationship. Once you’re in, you never want to go out.