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Agent Diary: ‘With flight disruptions I strive to find solutions that are better than the original plans’

Not accepting problems lying down has always been my motto, says The Travel Snob’s David Walker, a Not Just Travel homeworker

Covid, furlough, ever-changing entry rules, testing, passport expiry confusion, schedule changes, flight cancellations, a hotel fire in Mauritius . . . when will it end?

These days, almost every client begins their email or phone call by saying “You must be really busy at the moment”, before preceding to carry on with a pointless question about their trip next year. “Really busy” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

It’s great knowing that such large amounts can be booked in a month, and it means my old goalposts have definitely shifted

Last month was my busiest ever, with more than £600,000 in sales. This was followed by our lovely Travel Counsellors friend announcing that she’d done over £1.5 million, which is an absolutely cracking achievement. It’s great knowing that such large amounts can be booked in a month, and it means my old goalposts have definitely shifted.

More than 40 new bookings and 52 departures in June made it quite the month for me. For many of those bookings I had to spend time on hold with suppliers and then walk the clients through each step, making it a time-consuming process.

Flight changes

The number of changes to schedules and cancellations is staggering. I’m just glad we are giving plenty of time to each booking to correct things that need to be corrected. When we do have to ring suppliers, we find that nine times out of 10 they are not even aware of the changes. Don’t you just love airlines?

The number of changes to schedules and cancellations is staggering, I’m glad we are giving plenty of time to each booking to correct things

When it comes to informing customers that there has been a change to their itinerary, I find their responses vary. Some clients are relieved they can simply get a refund (which means you lose your commission) when you tell them their plans have been cancelled. Yet others are more than happy to pay additional fees for a new or revised flight and will drive to practically any airport in the country to save their plans for a week in the sun.

Problem solving

Finding solutions and not accepting problems lying down has always been my motto, and I have a few recent examples to illustrate this.

When Air Canada changed its schedule recently, which would have caused problems for my client and added to her journey time, I managed to find an alternative flight, in the same class, via Vancouver with just a 90-minute connection. It was a simple swap which meant my client was as happy as Larry, especially as the revised flight was faster than the original and she landed in Victoria three hours earlier than planned.

After some quick thinking we got them booked on to a flight to Corfu and contacted the hotel, which arranged a transfer via a private speedboat

Similarly, flights to Preveza from Gatwick were cancelled recently, having already been moved from Luton, and the hotel was full the day before and the day after the clients were due to come back. But after some quick thinking we got them booked on to a flight to Corfu and contacted the hotel, which arranged a transfer via a private speedboat. The clients were very chuffed and I received photos of them on the boat having the time of their lives.

One more example: when Lufthansa recently cancelled a flight to Birmingham, I switched my clients to Manchester and received a £235 refund as the fares were cheaper. (How often does that happen?) To top it all, my lovely clients insisted I should keep the refund for all the trouble I have had in recent years.


SHUTTERSTOCK time

Time flies – and so do my clients

I still believe the last few years have been a time for travel agents to shine. I’ve picked up many new clients based on recommendations, and the conversations usually start with them discussing a bad experience getting a refund or trying to get hold of anyone to talk to when booking direct.

We really need to be shouting from the rooftops about the service we provide when it comes to getting them away on their holidays. Today alone, I have dealt with three airline schedule changes, a rebook from last year and a repricing due to the death of one passenger. All this while I chase suppliers for tickets, check tickets for departures and, of course, complete bookings. It’s no wonder time seems to be whizzing by right now.

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