A Day in The Life of a Travel Agent

I woke with a start and sweat on my brow. At three o'clock in the morning I realised that a flight booking I had made for one of my clients may have self destructed eight hours previously. Had I notified the airline of the ticket number in order to save the booking from being automatically cancelled? I couldn't remember. Her flight to London was full, as was the waitlist, and if the booking had self destructed how would I explain this to her later that morning? My nightmare continued until the dawn chorus suggested it was time to face the day.

A travel agent's day brings many anxious moments. What if my clients are caught in a civil disturbance in a foreign country? Or their holiday is stalled when some airline employees strike? Or a delayed flight means they have missed connections and perhaps missed tours? Or their luggage is stolen or lost? What are the legal ramifications if they travel against my advice to a country where the Department of Foreign affairs has a current travel advisory against travelling to that country? Is it my problem? I'm only the travel agent for goodness sake! Does their insurance cover them for these force majeures. What insurance? Perhaps against my advice, they didn't want to spend the money on travel insurance. How much responsibility do I take for supposedly responsible adults?

Everyone who is not a travel consultant wants to be one. They imagine it's glamour, free flights, free tours and accommodation and the relaxing environment in the office. But reality is somewhat different. Ticketing deadlines, waitlisted flights, flight schedule changes, cholera outbreaks, dog bites, ferry sinkings, bus crashes and bankruptcies are just some of the travel agents' nightmare. Who else receives phone calls from irate parents who are angry you sent their lovely daughter on a trip to the Middle East?

Am I to blame? She was over eighteen and I gave her all my advice and experience but she filled in the form anyway and paid her money.

We also play the role of financial advisor (what travellers cheques should I take?), medical practitioner (what injections do I need for travel to the equator?), insurance broker (what am I covered for if I break a leg while climbing a mountain in the Himalayas?), legal expert (what does it mean by me signing this disclaimer?) and nanny (please look after my son and make sure he cleans his teeth with unpolluted water!)

Being a travel consultant is a very stressful and often thankless job where one minute error can ruin a $20,000 "holiday of a lifetime." If glamour is sitting behind a desk pushing pen against paper, tapping keys on a computer or dealing with the mundane bureaucracy 95% of the day then please lead me to the most boring job in the world.

Although our pay scales are one of the lowest in Australia we are constantly being told that the free or discounted travel will make up the difference in our annual package. But maybe some of us don't want all the 'travel benefits'! Maybe some of us would prefer to receive a wage at least equal to the average wage? I've been in the industry now since 1980 and I've seen free travel for the travel industry almost dry up. Discounted travel is now the order of the day. Imagine only paying half price? But the Catch 22 is that I just can't afford half price on the wage I earn. And now along comes the Federal Government telling us we now have to pay Fringe Benefit Tax on our already depleted travel benefits.

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