Frustrated travel agent!

I could have done better for them!

I could have done better for them!

It’s times like this week when I feel I might have missed my calling. I really should have been a travel agent.

I’m having to organise a trip for someone at work to the other side of the world in about four working days. It’s absolutely nuts. I’m doing everything from booking flights to accommodation to transfer, visas, customs, time change and tipping information. The complete package.

Today I almost lost it with the travel agency my company is required to use. I’ve been emailing them (as is their wish) back and forth and they take forever to reply. When they do they quote on options you didn’t ask for and, to top it all off, they don’t return phone calls. I rang today when I’d hit tilt and told them I wasn’t happy and I wanted to speak to a manager. Nasty JudgeG!

The person on the other end eventually realised I wasn’t going to be placated with yet another email. They ended up biting the bullet and booking the entire series of flights whilst I was on the phone directing them. I asked them a stack of questions – and why shouldn’t I? I am the customer! Or my company is anyway.

Not that they were hard questions….

If I leave from Sydney but return to another city, will it cost more?

If I choose a flight operated by an A380 is it more expensive?

Why have you given me a routing that goes through 3 cities instead of a direct flight?

Crazily enough, even though I was talking to an ‘international consultant’, they couldn’t answer my questions. They had to keep going away and checking. On hold, off hold, on hold, off hold. It was almost an hour long phone call. All the time I kept thinking “If I was doing this myself I could do it faster, cheaper and I’d get the flights and options I really wanted.”

When I’ve booked for myself in the past I do all the research, come up with all the options and book on-line myself – unless a physical travel agent has a better deal. And that’s not very often. When you do it yourself you feel like you have some control. You’re behind the wheel and making the decisions based on your best judgement on the information available. When you’re forced to go through a travel agent who only have to send you an email with 3 or 4 options, you feel like ‘they could be telling me anything, charging me anything and I’d never know. I have no control of the situation.’

And that’s what was driving me nuts. I knew what I wanted but it was like going through a badly designed maze to get there. All I wanted was international flights to and from and then a few domestic sectors in the country being visited. I was taking care of the accommodation nad visa requirements myself. Let’s face it, when the person is flying out next week, you can’t afford to stuff around or be stuffed around.

In the end I felt I’d done the travel agent’s job for them. They’ll get the commission on the flights and a fat fee and all I’ll get is an ulcer for my trouble!

Later, when I was researching a possible personal side trip for this person, I felt much better – I let my fingers do the walking…all over the internet. I found reasonable prices on a reasonable airline, a reasonably priced hotel, found out the cost of a cab from the airport and so on. Again, it wasn’t brain surgery. But it was satisfying. I felt confident in my research and options I had established. There wasn’t the nagging doubt in my head that there had been dealing with the travel agent…’you don’t really know what you’re talking about, do you….?’

When I’m booking domestic flights for work, I load up all the airline websites and the times and fares before I pick up the phone to call the agency. So that way, if they’re talking bollocks, I can call them on it instantly. I know what I want when I call and I want them to give it to me. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I had the confidence in them that I could just ring and say ‘can you help me, I’d kind of like this, what’s the best way?’ But hell no, I’d never do that.

Yes it feels like ‘I’m telling you HOW to do your job!’ but the alternative is wobbling uncertainty. There’s been a stack of times when I’ve said to a consultant, ‘Yes, but isn’t there also a flight at xxx o’clock?’ and the reply has been ‘oh, er, um, yes, you’re right…sorry!’

Next week it’s going to be all about picking up currency, 1 litre clear plastic bags, copying pictures of airport terminals and creating a step-by-step folder for the international traveller. A pain in the arse? Yes, perhaps but at least I’m the one doing it. I’m not hoping and praying some disinterested third party is going to come through for me – I’m just gonna get out there and do it!

JudgeAir....we know what you want!

JudgeAir....we know what you want!


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