Comment: Switch-sell clients to long-haul to minimise risk of flight disruption 

Get your customers thinking about off‑the‑beaten‑track and bucket list destinations, says If Only’s Gordon McCreadie

The chaos at airports at the moment is no secret. We are bombarded with newspaper headlines and radio announcements about the latest delays, cancellations, queues or baggage mayhem on a daily basis.

While this is going on, the overall volume of bookings across the sector is reported to be slowing down. Could this negative media coverage be one of the reasons why?

Are customers apprehensive to commit to their much-needed holiday for fear of it being cancelled or amended last-minute due to airlines or airports not being able to fulfil their contractual agreements because of staff shortages? Or are they holding off to see how the turmoil plays out before committing to a last-minute break, which could lead to another sudden surge in bookings?

If it’s the latter, agents need to encourage customers to commit and book now because the price of flights will only continue to increase. Otherwise, we run the risk of another bump in our road to recovery.

Here at If Only, we have been fortunate that fewer than 1% of the packages we supplied to agents in May and June have been cancelled.

And that shows the true benefit of long-haul luxury holidays: long-haul flights by scheduled carriers will rarely be cancelled, compared with short-haul routes. One carrier has reportedly cancelled 4,000 flights since January, affecting nearly 5.6 million passengers, with the majority of cancellations being to short-haul destinations. That isn’t good enough.

Long-haul benefits

Of course, there are the many other benefits to flying long-haul aside from a decreased risk of your flight being cancelled, including onboard TV and entertainment packages, drinks and meals included, and more legroom.

On the whole, things are looking good right now. The US has recently dropped its testing entry requirements for fully-vaccinated travellers; Australia has fully reopened with no proof of vaccination status needed; New Zealand has reopened its borders to fully-vaccinated passengers; and the Thailand Pass was dropped on July 1, meaning the country has no entry requirements.

This means there are once again many long-haul options that your customers have not been able to think about for some time – now is the time to get them thinking again.

After being stuck at home and not being able to travel for so long, customers are looking to get out and experience more of the world and we have seen this with the strength of the bounce-back of international travel.

With more faraway countries reopening their borders, I encourage agents to try to switch-sell their customers to a long-haul destination, reducing the chances of their flights being affected.

Higher earnings

Luxury holidays also provide a much higher earning opportunity for agents, with the average agent commission earned per booking standing at more than £2,500.

At If Only, we are receiving more and more calls from customers looking for touring and off‑the‑beaten‑track destinations that were previously on their bucket or wish lists as travel options but are now on the to-do list. This means it’s the perfect time for agents to promote these kind of packages to their customers.

Make sure you keep an eye on our social media platforms for some fantastic options we will be promoting over the coming months, with tours and packages that our product teams have worked hard to put together to showcase the world.

I don’t think anybody predicted that customer demand would have been as high as it is right now and so soon after the pandemic.

We are resilient as an industry and nothing demonstrates that more than the past two years. I’m certain that the recent disruption at airports is just another bump in the road and we’ll soon be on track to make travel beautiful again.

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