Travel Agents charge fees and justifiably so. See, I was a Travel Agent for over two decades; I mainly handled VIP Corporate travelers and loved my job! I dealt with last minute travel plans, changes, changes and more changes! This is the nature of the business and we know it, understand it, and deal with it and actually like it. Business plans change frequently, meetings are postponed or delayed or perhaps the business traveler has to meet with new clients and so on, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just how it is. I was fortunate; the vast majorities of my customers were extremely generous with their compliments and appreciated my services as a Corporate Travel Agent. However over the years I have heard some travelers voice their concerns over the travel related fees which they felt were unnecessary and unjustified.
Background on Travel Booking sites:
Let me start with a little background about Internet sites that Ã¢â‚¬Å“regularÃ¢â‚¬Â people utilize to book or make reservations to help make a distinction from what travel agents utilize. I will only mention a few Internet sites, because there are hundreds of sites. A few of the most common and well known internet sites are Expedia, Orbitz, tripadvisor, cheaptickets and bookingbuddy. These are all great reliable, reputable and user friendly Ã¢â‚¬Å“point and clickÃ¢â‚¬Â travel sites frequently used to book your hotel, car, vacation and airline reservations. These online sites do an outstanding job at searching all the possible airfares Ã¢â‚¬Å“out thereÃ¢â‚¬Â based on your request and guidelines.
What will online booking sites do for you?
These sites will check and find you the cheapest, least expensive hotel rate, car rate, vacation package and airfare, usually Ã¢â‚¬Å“non refundableÃ¢â‚¬Â with many restrictions and require the traveler to read the fine print in order to understand the rules. For instance once the site letÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s say Ã¢â‚¬Å“bookingbuddyÃ¢â‚¬Â finds you the flights you like and the price, all you do is Ã¢â‚¬Å“book itÃ¢â‚¬Â. These are highly efficient programs that allow you to fill in your personal information into the appropriate boxes or spaces provided, simply put all you do is Ã¢â‚¬Å“point and clickÃ¢â‚¬Â it is that fast and simple. Travelers that do not choose to go through a travel agency have many options as previously mentioned expedia and orbitz. One of the advantages is that the traveler has complete control over their reservation and often times these sites do offer promotions and discounts that are not available elsewhere, and offer huge savings! No question these sites are user friendly, easy to navigate, reliable, reputable and very competitive! These sites specialize in finding you the best price plain and simple. They are efficient, fast and reliable, no question.
Travel Agent computer system:
On the other hand your travel agent does not utilize a Ã¢â‚¬Å“point and clickÃ¢â‚¬Â computer system or program such as the ones mentioned previously, although they can and do often times. It is important to understand that most travel agents utilize airline computer systems such as sabre which is utilized by American Airlines and Apollo which is utilized by United Airlines. These computer systems utilize for the most part complex codes, you might be familiar with the city code LAX and LAS which stand for Los Angeles and Las Vegas. LetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s say you call your travel agent and request a flight from Los Angeles to Las Vegas on May 20 at 8am and you happen to be a business traveler. This is what the travel agent would input into his or her computer if using sabre (120MAYLAXLAS8A) this is just the simplest and most basic form of requesting Ã¢â‚¬Å“basic availabilityÃ¢â‚¬Â but there are hundreds of other Ã¢â‚¬Å“formatsÃ¢â‚¬Â which the travel agent can utilize to manipulate for more specific results. For instance the traveler only wants to fly on American (AA) because he or she is a frequent traveler and request a business class upgrade or a full coach airfare with no penalties and so on, literally there hundreds of formats and the travel agent has most of them memorized, no Ã¢â‚¬Å“point and clickÃ¢â‚¬Â.
I wanted to point out this distinction between Internet sites and airline computer systems, so you have a basic understanding of the process and perhaps appreciate the travel agent a little more. Travel agents do not have an easy job by any means and their service is highly valued, companies typically pay a fee for their services which are well worth it in my opinion.
Why do travel agencies charge service fees?
Keep in mind airlines no longer pay travel agencies a commission although there are exceptions for those mega agencies that have high volume or airline contracts established, however the commission is normally capped and at times a small percentage. The days of travel agencies relying on commission alone are long gone; this is why travel agencies must charge the customer a fee. There are booking fees, change fees, hotel and car rental fees, and cancellation fees and so on.
What you get in return for service fees:
What do you get in return for these fees? You will have a real person answering the phone when youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re Ã¢â‚¬Å“stuckÃ¢â‚¬Â at the airport and your flight was cancelled or delayed and you need to come home now, to attend your sonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s baseball game. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no need for you to login to a computer system which can take a while not to mention retrieve your reservation and make the changes yourself. The customer often times calls from the gate with their dilemma, the travel agent in a matter of seconds locates the reservation, finds the next flight out makes the changes and issues a new Ã¢â‚¬Å“e-tktÃ¢â‚¬Â electronic ticket. At this point the customer is given his/her new gate number and given instructions to go, bypassing the long ticket line and on his/her way to his destination.
Yes there are times that all the flights may be full and all thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s available is Ã¢â‚¬Å“standbyÃ¢â‚¬Â but you the traveler did not have to go to every airline to find this out, your friendly travel agent was able to view this with only one entry into his/her computer system, saving you a lot of time.
Some of the Travel Agent duties:
Many times the travel agent is also able to place the traveler on a Ã¢â‚¬Å“wait listÃ¢â‚¬Â while you head to the gate. Not to mention that travel agents may at times Ã¢â‚¬Å“pull some stringsÃ¢â‚¬Â make a few phone calls, which by the way you are never aware of, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just part of our job, and we do it gladly, this is customer service at it best. Keep in mind that while your travel agent is doing this for you, there are probably others also on Ã¢â‚¬Å“holdÃ¢â‚¬Â waiting to be helped with the same situation or similar, it is a fast paced environment, adrenaline is our fuel and we love it! Oh and by the way every business traveler always wants the Ã¢â‚¬Å“aisleÃ¢â‚¬Â seat 99% of the time, which is one of their pet peeves.
Consequently if a travel agent cannot get the Ã¢â‚¬Å“aisleÃ¢â‚¬Â seat, he or she will place you on a Ã¢â‚¬Å“wait listÃ¢â‚¬Â and as soon as the first person cancels, we Ã¢â‚¬Å“grab itÃ¢â‚¬Â simple right? Not really but luckily technology is on our side and travel agents use what we call Ã¢â‚¬Å“queuesÃ¢â‚¬Â sort of a filing system, but more complex.
These queues literally work 24/7 on specific tasks, such as monitoring your flight for that Ã¢â‚¬Å“aisleÃ¢â‚¬Â seat, because we all know how unhappy you the traveler will be, if you had to Ã¢â‚¬Å“God forbidÃ¢â‚¬Â sit in the Ã¢â‚¬Å“centerÃ¢â‚¬Â seat, and we would never hear the end of it, so these Ã¢â‚¬Å“queuesÃ¢â‚¬Â are a beautiful thing!
More Travel Agent duties:
Therefore please be nice to your friendly Travel Agent, that is working very hard to get you that aisle seat, get you out on the next flight because your flight was cancelled, or call the hotel and pull some more Ã¢â‚¬Å“stringsÃ¢â‚¬Â to waive the 24hour cancel policy, locate your luggage or lap top, find you a room when the entire city is sold due to a Ã¢â‚¬Å“star trekÃ¢â‚¬Â convention, call Mexico, London and China to negotiate a better room rate for you, call the airport shuttle and Ã¢â‚¬Å“pull more stringsÃ¢â‚¬Â to waive the shuttle fee that you will no longer be needing.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Bottom lineÃ¢â‚¬Â Travel agents put out a lot of Ã¢â‚¬Å“firesÃ¢â‚¬Â all day long, it is the nature of the job and we love it! Nevertheless, after you hang up with your travel agent, he or she takes another call and has another Ã¢â‚¬Å“fireÃ¢â‚¬Â to put out all while being monitored by his or her supervisor to ensure that he/she is going above and beyond and providing excellent customer service.
So yes there are fees involved when you go through a travel agent, but I would say it is well worth it!
Travelers have options:
In short we realize you do have options and if you choose to Ã¢â‚¬Å“bookÃ¢â‚¬Â your own travel plans and make your own changes, then the next best thing is a reputable and trusted site such as expedia, orbitz, bookingbuddy and tripadvisor, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s really just a matter of preference.
Regardless if you chose a travel agent or internet based booking site, your travel experience should be a pleasant one; after all you are the customer and are entailed to it.
Travel Agents do appreciate your business, Just be kind to the travel agent who has jumped through many hoops to get you that aisle seat and home in time for your sonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s or daughterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s baseball game or graduation.
For further information on Service Fees, you may also visit the ASTA website and also read their articles. You may also read more on the United States Department of Labor website.