Author Topic: Travel Agent Market Research - Your thoughts on 21st century Agents.  (Read 11362 times)

Offline chff

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Re: Travel Agent Market Research - Your thoughts on 21st century Agents.
« Reply #75 on: February 20, 2017, 12:11:01 PM »
I always tell people: "I don't sell flights, there are a thousand websites that do that. I sell service".

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Offline Sig

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Re: Travel Agent Market Research - Your thoughts on 21st century Agents.
« Reply #76 on: February 20, 2017, 03:07:21 PM »
I always tell people: "I don't sell flights, there are a thousand websites that do that. I sell service".
Guess who else serves the same "service"? Expedia, travelocity, each airline....in other words the "thousand web sites". I have yet to see on this entire thread what "service" a TA provides that isn't also provided by all of these competing service providers? Guess what TA's, you're one of the thousands of service providers, so you've got to provide services they don't!
On the other hand, I can tell you what "services" that these competing suppliers provide that in my experience TAs don't:
-Instant confirmation of your flight online and by email.
-24 hour access to make bookings and changes, from seats to flights.
-No additional fee.
-The same price or lower, especially when taking into account a fee.
-More intuitive view of choices and a greater number of choices (of routing, times, airlines, layovers....) I can look at a grid on ITA and or google flights and better see in 30 seconds what would take a TA 10 minutes to explain over the phone.

I was a government employee and had to book all business flights through our contract travel agent, SATO or Carlson Wagonlit depending who had the contract. My job involved flying small aircraft around the country and taking a commercial flight at the beginning, end, or both of the delivery, so I flew a lot with a lot of last minute changes, something where a TA should shine. They had a rudimentary online booking engine which was expedia circa 1999, and even it was light years ahead of any agent I spoke to. And we paid something like $40 every time we talked to an agent, even if the agent was worthless, which they were 100% of the time, as well as something like $20 for the privilege of using the online booking engine, which again was archaic. The sad thing was that GSA did all the heavy lifting of bidding out contract fares, so the travel agency was literally doing nothing but booking flights and they were 10X harder to use than any of the commercial booking engines. So anyone who says a corporate travel department should value a TA clearly hasn't had to live through working with a corporate contract TA!

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Re: Travel Agent Market Research - Your thoughts on 21st century Agents.
« Reply #77 on: February 20, 2017, 04:41:17 PM »
As somebody who used DTS and Carlson Wagonlit numerous times while I was in the army, I can attest to their services being worthless. It was just another example of government spending the highest cost for the worst product.

Offline Myccrabbi

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Re: Travel Agent Market Research - Your thoughts on 21st century Agents.
« Reply #78 on: February 20, 2017, 06:53:52 PM »


Guess who else serves the same "service"? Expedia, travelocity, each airline....in other words the "thousand web sites". I have yet to see on this entire thread what "service" a TA provides that isn't also provided by all of these competing service providers? Guess what TA's, you're one of the thousands of service providers, so you've got to provide services they don't!
On the other hand, I can tell you what "services" that these competing suppliers provide that in my experience TAs don't:
-Instant confirmation of your flight online and by email.
-24 hour access to make bookings and changes, from seats to flights.
-No additional fee.
-The same price or lower, especially when taking into account a fee.
-More intuitive view of choices and a greater number of choices (of routing, times, airlines, layovers....) I can look at a grid on ITA and or google flights and better see in 30 seconds what would take a TA 10 minutes to explain over the phone.

I was a government employee and had to book all business flights through our contract travel agent, SATO or Carlson Wagonlit depending who had the contract. My job involved flying small aircraft around the country and taking a commercial flight at the beginning, end, or both of the delivery, so I flew a lot with a lot of last minute changes, something where a TA should shine. They had a rudimentary online booking engine which was expedia circa 1999, and even it was light years ahead of any agent I spoke to. And we paid something like $40 every time we talked to an agent, even if the agent was worthless, which they were 100% of the time, as well as something like $20 for the privilege of using the online booking engine, which again was archaic. The sad thing was that GSA did all the heavy lifting of bidding out contract fares, so the travel agency was literally doing nothing but booking flights and they were 10X harder to use than any of the commercial booking engines. So anyone who says a corporate travel department should value a TA clearly hasn't had to live through working with a corporate contract TA!

What you are saying about the instant and intuitive view of choices and the ability to change seats(can be done if bought through a ta as well online if you are familiar with trip case or check my trip)is very true and cannot be beat...

That very same element that makes it sound so attractive obviously is its faults as well, for example if the prices on the search showed  $600 and you are all excited and then it tells you the price is no longer available for that price, or sometimes it's so "intuitive" that it books you tickets from say PHL when you wanted NYC and it also did it 2 days before or after, this is just an example.

Another point, you mentioned about bad experience with the expensive travel agency your government job had a contract with, and it can very well be that a high society agency like that can be horrible because of the lack of need to prove themselves(which online travel agencies also suffer from since it's so popular) , but regardless when it comes to the point after the booking and the ticket needs to be changed canceled or voided I have yet to meet someone who says that it was easier to do it online, and I'm not even gonna go into little details like making a reservation and having the option to split the pnr which isn't available for online users, requesting bassinets for babies...

So, I'm not saying there are no shortcomings in using travel agents(you can't book with them 3am for example)but for a lot of people the "service" that agents offer some better some worse is amazing, there is a reason why the industry is still in business for the traditional travel agents.

Either way this is a very interesting topic and I'd love to hear more opinions on this matter .
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Offline shimino1

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Re: Travel Agent Market Research - Your thoughts on 21st century Agents.
« Reply #79 on: February 21, 2017, 12:34:39 PM »
Guess who else serves the same "service"? Expedia, travelocity, each airline....in other words the "thousand web sites". I have yet to see on this entire thread what "service" a TA provides that isn't also provided by all of these competing service providers? Guess what TA's, you're one of the thousands of service providers, so you've got to provide services they don't!
On the other hand, I can tell you what "services" that these competing suppliers provide that in my experience TAs don't:
-Instant confirmation of your flight online and by email.
-24 hour access to make bookings and changes, from seats to flights.
-No additional fee.
-The same price or lower, especially when taking into account a fee.
-More intuitive view of choices and a greater number of choices (of routing, times, airlines, layovers....) I can look at a grid on ITA and or google flights and better see in 30 seconds what would take a TA 10 minutes to explain over the phone.

I was a government employee and had to book all business flights through our contract travel agent, SATO or Carlson Wagonlit depending who had the contract. My job involved flying small aircraft around the country and taking a commercial flight at the beginning, end, or both of the delivery, so I flew a lot with a lot of last minute changes, something where a TA should shine. They had a rudimentary online booking engine which was expedia circa 1999, and even it was light years ahead of any agent I spoke to. And we paid something like $40 every time we talked to an agent, even if the agent was worthless, which they were 100% of the time, as well as something like $20 for the privilege of using the online booking engine, which again was archaic. The sad thing was that GSA did all the heavy lifting of bidding out contract fares, so the travel agency was literally doing nothing but booking flights and they were 10X harder to use than any of the commercial booking engines. So anyone who says a corporate travel department should value a TA clearly hasn't had to live through working with a corporate contract TA!
Wrong! Just wrong!
You are confusing two issues and making a mess of things.
I won't address the issues with your government agency. Your bad experience does not mean the whole industry is no good.

Regarding your point that "Guess who else serves the same "service"? Expedia, travelocity" Sure, let's see you work things out when your flight is delayed or cancelled and you are stranded at the airport with/without Wifi. Good luck working with a costumer service "specialist" from India who started work last week and parrots back to you everything on his computer screen in barely understandable English. Try getting last minute flights to Israel before pasach at a normal price with expedia. Try requesting a bassinet online for your child. Try to figure out what to eat on the plane when the brilliant  agent at travelocity messed up your Kosher meal. Try digging trough your emails to find the darn email they supposedly sent you that your flight was cancelled when you arrive at the airport without a clue.

All these things happen to people who book online. A good travel agent can make sure most of these things never happen. An OTA's job is to sell you a flight. After that, they won't do anything for you unless you proactively call them and work it out for them. A good travel agent is an industry expert who works on your behalf to make sure the things you care about are taken care of.

The point you made about searching online being easier than having the agent do it from scratch is a valid one (although not everyone knows how to properly search online) but why not find the flights you want online and email a travel agent to book it? I have people do this all the time. It's easier for the traveler and he knows that someone has his back if something goes wrong.

Offline chff

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Re: Travel Agent Market Research - Your thoughts on 21st century Agents.
« Reply #80 on: February 21, 2017, 01:06:29 PM »
Let me add my 2 cents; - I know many of these big agencies charge for every call etc, all the airlines charged a phone fee when booking over the phone, I know they dropped it as they are trying to figure out if that will bring them back business. In Europe, there is no such thing as a toll-free number, and all the airlines have premium numbers where you pay like for every second you sneeze, which ensures you donít call them.

Yes, Expedia and the airline provides service, but here are some examples of the difference between an agent; (many times especially at the airport the airline would be better able to assist, but in advance an agent can be better). 

1 - I had a client in Europe during one of the many LH strikes. He knew that I was out of the country so he didnít call me (I told him afterwards that he should have called meÖ) and he called LH and they rebooked him on LOT. But when he got to the airport 12 hours later his ticket wasnít reissued, and LOT made him pay for a new ticket. Basically, the agent over the phone in many cases doesnít have the authority to issue/reissue and just makes the booking and queues it to a ticketing agent, something that I would have done in 5 minutes. He later complained to LH, and they gave him a 20% voucher with all its restrictions wasnít worth the paper it was printed. I was able then to get a refund for the amount he had to pay then with some extra.

2 - Had a client who needed a change on a jetBlue ticket during a weather waiver, and it was completely sold out. I was able to keep an eye, and after an hour or so I was able grab a seat. Now will an OTA/Airline do that? What would have happened that person would have checked online letís say, putting in all info on the website, do the query, and get back zero results, and I donít think he would have tried to search again if the query take more than 30 seconds and errorís out if there is a network overload etc. He would have maybe called the airline, waited an hour or so they should answer the phone, and would have told him ďwe see no spaceĒ and bye, he would have called again to see if anything changed?

3 - Had a client that arrived in VIE and his onwards flight was canceled. This case the airline has great powers to change carriers, but he didnít get anything from them (Only option was TK with a 5 hour stop Friday morning). He then called me, and after an hour I was able to book him and a later non-stop flight, and I then had the airline reissue it. Not stopping there, I was up all night to have him switched to a better flight, and made sure the ticket was reissued etc, would an OTA or even the airline do that?

4 - Countless times with a Bassinet it involves more than just the request for one, you have to follow up and make sure you get it confirmed. Not sure any OTA will do that.

By the LY strike I have moved people to UA, and only because when the flight was canceled, I first grabbed some seats on UA, and then had LY reissue it. By the time I got LY on the phone the space was long gone, and only because I had it there it got done. Not sure if an OTA would have done that either.

Offline chff

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Re: Travel Agent Market Research - Your thoughts on 21st century Agents.
« Reply #81 on: February 21, 2017, 01:12:26 PM »
Now maybe I'm really overdoing it, but does an OTA or an airline check in their clients at -24 in order to get seats assignments especially now that everybody charges for ASR?

Offline shimino1

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Re: Travel Agent Market Research - Your thoughts on 21st century Agents.
« Reply #82 on: February 21, 2017, 01:46:20 PM »
All great points chff
Here's one I didn't address before: There are times when business class tickets to Israel are super expensive (holidays, etc'). I can often get those tickets for $1000 less then you can get on any OTA including full miles earning MQM's etc'.

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Re: Travel Agent Market Research - Your thoughts on 21st century Agents.
« Reply #83 on: February 21, 2017, 01:49:04 PM »
Usually when I get a call saying: "I found a flight on Kayak for $560. Can you get it for less?" I say: "Have a safe flight. bye." If someone doesn't recognize the benefits of a travel agent, they won't be happy with the service so it's not worth my time.

Offline yuneeq

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Re: Travel Agent Market Research - Your thoughts on 21st century Agents.
« Reply #84 on: February 21, 2017, 01:56:22 PM »
Usually when I get a call saying: "I found a flight on Kayak for $560. Can you get it for less?" I say: "Have a safe flight. bye." If someone doesn't recognize the benefits of a travel agent, they won't be happy with the service so it's not worth my time.

I would guess they're asking because:

There are times when business class tickets to Israel are super expensive (holidays, etc'). I can often get those tickets for $1000 less then you can get on any OTA including full miles earning MQM's etc'.
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Re: Travel Agent Market Research - Your thoughts on 21st century Agents.
« Reply #85 on: February 21, 2017, 02:03:44 PM »
@chff

Wow, with all your work and dedication towards your customers, how does it even pay to be a travel agent?
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Offline Moshe123

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Re: Travel Agent Market Research - Your thoughts on 21st century Agents.
« Reply #86 on: February 21, 2017, 02:05:48 PM »
@chff

Wow, with all your work and dedication towards your customers, how does it even pay to be a travel agent?

I can't speak for him, but many make good money, while giving good service.

Offline shimino1

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Re: Travel Agent Market Research - Your thoughts on 21st century Agents.
« Reply #87 on: February 21, 2017, 02:07:18 PM »
I would guess they're asking because:
When I hear the words business class, I never hang up.
I hang up on the people that think $600 for TLV-NYC is a little high and are looking to pay $500.
I may be able to do it, but I won't make enough for it to be worth my time.

Offline Sig

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Re: Travel Agent Market Research - Your thoughts on 21st century Agents.
« Reply #88 on: February 21, 2017, 08:37:20 PM »

What you are saying about the instant and intuitive view of choices and the ability to change seats(can be done if bought through a ta as well online if you are familiar with trip case or check my trip)is very true and cannot be beat...

That very same element that makes it sound so attractive obviously is its faults as well, for example if the prices on the search showed  $600 and you are all excited and then it tells you the price is no longer available for that price, or sometimes it's so "intuitive" that it books you tickets from say PHL when you wanted NYC and it also did it 2 days before or after, this is just an example.

Another point, you mentioned about bad experience with the expensive travel agency your government job had a contract with, and it can very well be that a high society agency like that can be horrible because of the lack of need to prove themselves(which online travel agencies also suffer from since it's so popular) , but regardless when it comes to the point after the booking and the ticket needs to be changed canceled or voided I have yet to meet someone who says that it was easier to do it online, and I'm not even gonna go into little details like making a reservation and having the option to split the pnr which isn't available for online users, requesting bassinets for babies...

So, I'm not saying there are no shortcomings in using travel agents(you can't book with them 3am for example)but for a lot of people the "service" that agents offer some better some worse is amazing, there is a reason why the industry is still in business for the traditional travel agents.

Either way this is a very interesting topic and I'd love to hear more opinions on this matter .
If you can't figure out how to ensure that the flight you booked is indeed from NY instead of PHL than you deserve having to use a travel agent!

Offline Sig

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Re: Travel Agent Market Research - Your thoughts on 21st century Agents.
« Reply #89 on: February 21, 2017, 08:49:01 PM »
Wrong! Just wrong!
You are confusing two issues and making a mess of things.
I won't address the issues with your government agency. Your bad experience does not mean the whole industry is no good.

Regarding your point that "Guess who else serves the same "service"? Expedia, travelocity" Sure, let's see you work things out when your flight is delayed or cancelled and you are stranded at the airport with/without Wifi. Good luck working with a costumer service "specialist" from India who started work last week and parrots back to you everything on his computer screen in barely understandable English. Try getting last minute flights to Israel before pasach at a normal price with expedia. Try requesting a bassinet online for your child. Try to figure out what to eat on the plane when the brilliant  agent at travelocity messed up your Kosher meal. Try digging trough your emails to find the darn email they supposedly sent you that your flight was cancelled when you arrive at the airport without a clue.

All these things happen to people who book online. A good travel agent can make sure most of these things never happen. An OTA's job is to sell you a flight. After that, they won't do anything for you unless you proactively call them and work it out for them. A good travel agent is an industry expert who works on your behalf to make sure the things you care about are taken care of.

The point you made about searching online being easier than having the agent do it from scratch is a valid one (although not everyone knows how to properly search online) but why not find the flights you want online and email a travel agent to book it? I have people do this all the time. It's easier for the traveler and he knows that someone has his back if something goes wrong.
Ever try to reach your travel agent at 0200 their time, (11:00 AM wherever you are)? Do you staff the phone 24 hours? My airline does, but most TA's don't and if they do you're getting the NJ equivalent of the Indian call center dude. I've never, in hundreds of flights and dozens and dozens of last minute changes, reroutes, delays....not been able to reach an airline agent. Why would I risk it going with you? You tell all these supposed horror stories of the hapless traveler who used the evil online booking engines, well guess what, if the stories aren't entirely apocryphal they represent a fraction of a fraction of a percent of all flights booked. My experience actually represents a far greater percentage of all TA booked flights. You tell me I can't judge the entire TA industry on my experience with a few dozen agents, then proceed to tell me to judge the entire online booking industry on a couple of your stories that I have to take on faith are even true. To paraphrase you, "Your bad experience does not mean the whole industry is no good." when it comes to Expedia and Travelocity.
And, as a matter of fact I traveled all over the world with my kids starting from 6 weeks old (had to move for work to Hawaii) and not once did I have a problem booking a bassinet, so one more scare tactic shot to h#ll.

Just a tip, attempting to scare people into using your services caters you to an increasingly elderly and shrinking demographic. Probably not the best idea.