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Agent Diary: Look out for one another as we battle the latest travel crisis

Every morning has an element of “What next?”, says Hays Travel Gateshead branch manager Colin Burns

Well, as Henry V would say: “Once more unto the breach dear friends, once more.”

This has become a daily team talk mantra for us, along with classics like “Groundhog Day”, “I’m a Travel Agent – Get Me Out of Here” and even “Let’s call the whole thing off”.

Every morning has an element of “What next?” as we grapple with the latest round of problems, bad press and unfounded rumours.

In retail we have an advantage over our airline and airport colleagues when it comes to breaking bad news to customers because we have a relationship with them

Of course, airport queues, delays and cancellations must be a nightmare for those affected. For many it is a double whammy as it will be their first time going away since 2019 and they will expect things to be pretty straightforward following the relaxing of Covid rules.

In retail we have an advantage over our airline and airport colleagues when it comes to breaking bad news to customers because we have a relationship with them, so they are less likely to blame us. But airport staff are almost anonymous beings, bearing the brunt of the anger.

Anger management

As much as I can understand people’s frustration, does that give them the right to abuse airport and airline staff? Absolutely not.

If a passenger misbehaves on a flight, drinks their own alcohol or is abusive, they will almost certainly receive a ban of some sort. In my view, those who are giving airport staff a hard time should suffer the same punishment. The fact that everyone is looking for someone to blame is a natural human reaction, but totally unhelpful at this stage.

Airlines, airports and government need to be 100% focused on solving the issues now, and the inquest can take place once passenger disruption has eased.

The fact that everyone is looking for someone to blame is a natural human reaction, but totally unhelpful at this stage.

And while solutions are being sought, the decision makers really must consider the impact their choices will have for staff on the ground, the ones who have to deal with travellers face-to-face.

Of course, media focus is very much on the airports and airlines that are worst affected as clearly this makes for better viewing, and no one is talking about those airports that are coping well with the bounce-back.

Some good news

I have to say a massive well done to my local airport, Newcastle, as it doesn’t appear to be suffering from anywhere near as many of the major problems others are having.

Lots of my customers flying from here report getting from car park to departure lounge in around 30 minutes with only a few short delays. Why can’t the media report this? If they did it might stop some of the calls we get along the lines of “I’ve seen on the news that airline X from airport X is cancelling flights. I’m flying with airline Y from airport Y in October 2023 – will mine be cancelled too?”

As I say to my team: “You may have heard that question 50 times today, but it’s the first time this customer has asked it.”

Such queries might at first seem irrational to us, but these customers have a genuine concern and need reassurance. As I say to my team: “You may have heard that question 50 times today, but it’s the first time this customer has asked it.”

So, as we battle through the latest crisis, I urge you to stick together and look out for one another. Let’s hope our team talks are soon filled with renditions of “Don’t worry, be happy”, “Good vibrations” and “Oh, what a beautiful morning”.


Screenshot 2022-06-06 at 12.07.45

Silver service

By the time you read this, I will be on board Azura celebrating my 25th wedding anniversary and renewing vows with Mrs B – and before any wisecracks, I agree it is definitely her who deserves the medal! P&O has been great at keeping us up to date with the latest protocols around pre-boarding and what to expect while on the ship, with regular emails outlining exactly which paperwork we need and how to get it.

I’m confident that Newcastle airport and Jet2.com can keep up the great work they have been doing recently and make our journey to Malta a straightforward and enjoyable experience. I will let you all know in my next column.

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