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Agent Diary: Is it too easy for customers to shift their booking or request a refund?

I’m all for flexibility but I feel Covid clauses have made it too easy for clients to change their bookings, says The Travel Snob’s David Walker, a Not Just Travel homeworker.

Peaks, they said. It’s our busiest time of the year. It has indeed been incredibly busy with enquiries, but I’m still rebooking and cancelling so many trips.

Where are these changes, from both operators and customers, coming from? Some are for far in advance, like an Asian cruise in April.

Maybe our suppliers gave too many get-out clauses in the toughest of times? Words like ‘book with confidence’, ‘peace of mind’, ‘flexible booking options’, ‘refund guarantee’ and ‘Covid guarantee’ were plastered all over shop windows, social media pages and emails – and we’ve all uttered these words to close a sale.

It has indeed been incredibly busy with enquiries, but I’m still rebooking and cancelling so many trips

I’m now regretting it. We’ve made it too easy for people to shift or refund (albeit within certain time frames). I’ve had requests like: ‘Sorry, David, we were talking to a mate in a pub last night and he told us we’re mad going on holiday. Can we move to next year?’

And: ‘Sorry, David, my husband is anti-vax, so we don’t want to risk going away and having to isolate – can we change to next year and hope the rules have changed?’ (Hopefully, his ideas change.)

Changes

But Covid’s not the only reason people are moving things again.

‘Sorry, David, can you rebook our holiday for next year as we’ve taken a rescue dog and don’t want to leave him for 10 days?’

How about: ‘Sorry, David, I’ve seen the same holiday we booked six months ago cheaper; can we get this under the price guarantee?’

Or: ‘David, the reviews on TripAdvisor have gone down since we booked 18 months ago and rebooked three times, can you look at alternatives? But we don’t want to pay more.’

And the most common one: ‘We’ve just tested positive for Covid and fly tomorrow – can we move it back two or three weeks?’

Travel insurance has been my (and my bank’s) best friend. This ensures we get our hard-earned commission

Travel insurance has been my (and my bank’s) best friend. This ensures we get our hard-earned commission. But for some clients, insurance hasn’t been their best avenue. We rebook where we can (some insurance firms advise them to do so). Obviously brokers were never travel agents in a previous life.

Then there’s airline schedule changes, hotel changes, the dreaded entry changes, and changing seats, transfers, parking, airport hotels.

This is, of course, with no disrespect to any of our hardworking suppliers. I feel for them as we spend hours on the phone to make the changes. And wait times get longer and longer. But did live chat learn to count differently than I did? In one queue, I somehow moved from seventh to 12th an hour later.

Star man

When we do get clients away, there is a lot of information we must relay. Someone asked me if I have a template I send to clients before they travel with the rules and regulations.

It’s strange how while some people just get it, others have a million questions, then speak to the plumber and have a million more

Everyone gets a very personalised email (followed by a call) listing every last detail for before they go, while away and when they come back. But it’s strange how while some people just get it, others have a million questions, then speak to the plumber and have a million more.

Peaks it is. And busy it certainly is. But when will we come out of this Covid madness?


COVID-19 and travel concept, mark of coronavirus PCR testing in tourist passport. Diagnostics of coronavirus in airport due to lockdown. Business and tourism hit by corona virus during pandemic.

Test experience concerned me 

Given all the preparation we do to ensure our clients get away safely, I was concerned at my experience when I flew to Lebanon for Christmas.  Many people were turned away at check-in for not having the right documents. And when we landed in Beirut we had to take PCR tests. However, the person conducting the tests asked me: “Do you want to do the test, or do you want to pay $25 and get a negative certificate?”

I was concerned at my experience when I flew to Lebanon for Christmas. Many people were turned away at check-in for not having the right documents

All that work we do, and this can still happen! To boot, we were almost denied boarding coming home as we were told we had the wrong documents! I showed the airline’s site, and Gov.uk, to prove I had it right, but I know that if I were one of my customers, I would have called me to sort it out.

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