Agents are waiting for less time to get through to the big operators following an improvement in services and a decline in demand for traditional package holidays, the results of research by Travel Weekly suggest.

Earlier this year agents claimed they were waiting up to 45 minutes to make reservations or amendments – a waste of their customers’ time and their own. Travel Weekly has taken up the cause and decided to investigate.

Travel Weekly made 72 random calls to Virgin Holidays, Thomas Cook, Thomson and First Choice on weekdays over the last three months, and found that waiting time fell from an average of 13 minutes to three.

Virgin Holidays was the top performer, with an average hold time of three minutes.

Travel Angels agent and Travel Weekly columnist Maureen Hill said: “We don’t have problems with Virgin anymore. It said it would listen to agents, and it did.”

Others also found an improvement in services from all four operators. World of Travel proprietor Andrew Earle said: “We haven’t had any problems recently. The days where direct customers got through before us are over. They have definitely cleaned up their act.”

This could also be a result of less demand for packages and a trend for booking long-haul specialist operators.

He said: “We have had few family requests so we are starting a free insurance promotion. We are booking lots of US breaks, especially for the over-50s, weddings and honeymoons.”

Increased demand for specialist holidays means agents have no need to call the big operators, said Somewhere2travel2 director Diane Denney. “In this climate, people are looking to get the right holiday for their spend. They’re looking for specialist agents who deal with specialist operators.

“People are more knowledgeable – they’ve done the packages and now want to do long haul. They’d rather do two weeks in the Far East and miss their week in Tenerife.”