A couple are planning a trip to New York, and want flights from any London airport to either Newark or JFK New York airports, going for one week at the end of May with a budget of £1,000 for both flights.

It was a fairly basic request, which all agents managed to meet, but why didn’t more take the opportunity to upsell and convince Mystery Shopper that they could get them the best hotel deal too?

  • Location: St Albans and Harpenden
  • Wanted: A return flight to New York


Flight Centre, Unit 6, 32 Chequer Street, St AlbansFlight Centre

Unit 6, 32 Chequer Street, St Albans

The inside of the shop looked a little tired compared to its colourful exterior, but the seats were comfy. In terms of displays, there were lots of lists with prices on, and a good variety of brochures.

I was immediately greeted by a consultant sitting at a desk. She seemed friendly, but didn’t really smile. The consultant didn’t make any conversation, but simply concentrated on finding flights. Prices ranged from £398 to £413, and Delta, Virgin and British Airways were mentioned.

She didn’t attempt to add on any extras. When I asked her to write the prices down, she wrote them on a business card. I wasn’t given any further information to take away, and the consultant didn’t try to close the sale. The service was adequate, but I would have liked more enthusiasm.


Sightsee Travel, 47 The Quadrant, St Albans Sightsee Travel

47 The Quadrant, St Albans

The facade looked old and in need of an update. Inside, some of the phones and computers looked quite dirty. There were brochures stacked up on the floor next to the desk.

Despite this, the window and brochure displays put me in the holiday mood. The consultant serving was eager to help and made polite conversation, which came across as friendly rather than forced.

I was given a list of airlines flying to New York in ascending price order – Continental, United Airlines, Virgin and Delta – and told the cheapest flight was through Continental Airlines at £310 per person.

The consultant didn’t try to upsell or add on any extras. She didn’t try to close the sale, apart from giving me a phone number.


Thomson, 37 High Street, Harpenden Thomson

37 High Street, Harpenden

This shop looked great – clean, attractive, with a nice layout and a good mix of pictures and information on display. The consultant seemed to genuinely want to help and was the friendliest of all the agents I visited.

She appeared to know her way around the computer system and showed knowledge of the different airports I could fly from.

She spent a while researching the best flight option, limiting her recommendation to Virgin Atlantic, which she said would be cheapest. The cost was £809 for two adults.

The consultant gave me an itinerary with that included flight times, dates and costs as well as her contact number. However, she didn’t try to upsell, upgrade or close the sale.


Thomas Cook, 65 St Peters Street, St AlbansThomas Cook

65 St Peters Street, St Albans

All the agents here seemed friendly and eager to help. The consultant searched quite a few flight options, and gave me the one which she thought best suited my budget and needs.

I was given the price of a Virgin Atlantic flight, which she said was the cheapest direct service. The price came in at £781.12 for two adults. No other airlines were mentioned.

In addition, she tried to sell me insurance and gave me a quote, which she included on the customer enquiry form. She also asked how I would be getting to the airport and offered to organise car parking for me.

My only criticism was that the consultant’s system seemed to take quite a while to get the information up. I left the agency thinking I had all the information I needed to make a decision, and she gave me a number to call if I wanted to go ahead with the booking.



  1. Mystery Shopper was interested in flying into either Newark or JFK airports in New York. Use the ‘Airports’ tab on Gazetteers.com to find out information about hundreds of different airports. The site contains information on the major airports such as airport codes, transport between terminals at the airport, transport links to and from the city, airport hotels, contact details and a web link for the airport, and other information such as cafes at the airport.  
  2. NYC and Company, New York’s tourist board, says there are great deals to be had on US public holidays as the city is less busy. Memorial Day Weekend falls at the end of May. 
  3. As well as upselling on extras such as airport parking, hotels and insurance, the agents could have tried to sell passess to New York attractions. Passess included The New York Explorer Pass and the The New York CityPass, which both offer great value for money on all sorts of attractions, museums and tours. 
  4. Tourism sectors in New York often put together special offers. Check out nycgo.com for details.
  5. For more information on accommodation and operators to New York, visit www.gazetteers.com