Confessions of a Travel Agent

Pick a date! Any date! Request your holidays with your employer then go visit your travel agent. You’re given a good price for a ticket with airlines of your choice. You then request your travel agent to book these flights on the requested dates. But the booking class required for one or more of your flights is showing zero seats. You probably can’t change your holiday dates, so your flight is waitlisted. Welcome to Murphy’s Travel Agent Law which states that the flight you want on the day you want to the place you want for the price you want and in the required class is full but on the day before and on the day after there are seats.

The above scenario is just one of the many frustrating routines which happens everyday as a travel agent. There’s never a dull moment. It can be both demanding and frustrating but most of the time it is very rewarding. In one day you can be given a bunch of flowers, abused for not explaining the rules, praised for making a holiday worthwhile or made to laugh at stories from distant shores. I’m always on my best behaviour and there isn’t really too much I dislike about my job

Here are some insights from behind the scenes.

CLIENTS can be split into four groups. Seasoned travellers will do their homework, read the brochures, choose the right time of year and will tell you what to book. The majority know where they want to go but need help choosing how they get around and when to go. Others know they have to go on holiday but have no idea where they want to go. And of course there are some doing school projects or just after your free advice and knowledge with no intention of booking. However, no matter who comes through your door, every person is a potential booking - a good travel agent will know how to handle each situation.

Spare a thought for our teachers who have no choice with their holidays. The first grizzle they have is that school holidays are usually high season, which means higher fares. They can’t leave any earlier as they run the risk of losing their holiday pay. If they leave later, they eat into their precious holiday time. They must also be back at school on time and again lose their holiday pay if they aren’t - no phoning in from a desert island requesting a couple more days to laze on the beach. And on top of this they are also competing with families for the limited seats.

PERSONAL One of the hardest things to do is to ask clients what their sleeping arrangements are. Just because they are married doesn’t mean they want a double bed and just because they are two single girls doesn’t mean they want twin beds. Some of the reasons and stories I hear would make good bedside reading!

BOOKING CONDITIONS It’s important that clients read trip descriptions and booking conditions as once the deposit has been paid to the principal there is usually no way of getting it back. Most deposits are non-refundable so be careful! We want you to travel, as we don’t make money out of cancelled holidays. If you booked what you thought was a group walking holiday and then realised that it was an independent self-guided one, it might be too costly to change or cancel it.

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