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Agent Diary: ‘The latest lockdown has revived previous problems with amendments’

This time round it’s too cold to even eat in the gardensays Hays Travel Washington branch manager Colin Burns.

Well, this isn’t the January we all desperately wanted and needed, is it?

Like so many times in the last year, our hopes of recovery have been dashed by lockdown and we find ourselves working just as hard to save existing bookings as we are to secure those vital new ones.

Customers, although now quite savvy with the procedures, seem more nervous. Even if they’re not travelling during the current ‘no fly’ period, they are asking to change their trips to later in the year or on to 2022. In many cases, these are the most difficult to deal with.

Many are concerned the country they plan to visit could require them to be vaccinated and are unsure they will have had the vaccine in time. What will happen? The key words here are ‘possibly’ and ‘might’. We just don’t know the answers yet and find ourselves constantly advising customers to be patient.

Booking frustration

We have one customer with a long-haul holiday booked for June who wants to amend it to June 2022, but the flights aren’t available yet. Unfortunately, with this particular supplier, flights for that date won’t be available until after the original travel date, so the customer has little choice but to wait and hope they get the vaccine, if required, in time. Their other options are to amend to later this year and then amend again, which is two lots of fees, or cancel and lose their £600 deposit.

“It would be nice to think that we could apply some common sense to individual bookings, but there are so many unknowns, it could become very complicated.”

I had an interesting conversation with another client who wanted to amend his booking. I had to tell him we needed to go by the supplier’s normal terms and conditions. “But Colin”, he said, “we are not living in normal times, so why do they have normal terms and conditions?” I had to sympathise with his frustrations.

It would be nice to think that we, as agents and suppliers, could apply some common sense to individual bookings. But there are so many unknowns, it could become very complicated, and there would always be those customers (and I dare say some agents) who would seek to take advantage of such flexibility. That said, there are suppliers who have significantly relaxed their ‘normal’. If you are one of them, well done!

Fees and freeze

Admin fees have been a bone of contention for customers, and me, over the past week. I’ve found myself defending the charges and having to explain that it is not me, the agent, charging the fee but the supplier. Many customers can’t see this. After all, they are paying me, so the fee must be my fault.

“Although there are similarities with this lockdown to the last, the big difference is the weather. It’s so cold that we can’t have lunch in the garden.”

The issue hit home when I had to amend my own holiday. It took 20 minutes on a Sunday night to amend my booking online and issue paperwork to myself, and the supplier charged me £80 – which wasn’t even commissionable!

Although there are similarities with this lockdown to the last, the big difference is the weather. It’s so cold that we can’t have lunch in the garden, but there’s no way I’m putting the heating on before the 5.45pm timer. So it’s like that scene from A Christmas Carol where Bob Cratchit, wearing lots of layers, huddles round his candle for warmth. I’ll be wearing my parka with the hood up, hugging my coffee mug. Brrrrr!

Colin-parka


There’s nothing like a dame

“Colin, will you stop singing that blooming song,” said Mrs B on New Year’s Eve. “Or at least learn the rest of the words!” I was walking round the house singing, “There ain’t nothing like a dame. Nothing in the world” and by 3pm it had finally got through to her.

“It’s an award that is well and truly deserved given the number of young people who have benefited both professionally and personally from Irene’s work.”

I’d heard the news that Irene Hays had been made a dame in the New Year Honours list. It’s an award that is well and truly deserved given the number of young people who have benefited both professionally and personally from Irene’s work in our industry and the whole community. So the song was appropriate. But maybe I should have made more of an effort to learn the words.

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