Registered Users have the option of removing this and all other advertisements.  Moreā€¦

What's the point in using a travel agent?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by N860CR, Sep 20, 2005.

  1. N860CR

    N860CR Established Member

    Nov 30, 2004
    3,059
    650
    Brisbane & Sydney
    I went to a travel agent to book some flights and accom for an upcoming trip I'm taking. After reviewing the information she got for me, I was left thinking what the point of even using a travel agent is. She searched for accomodation on the agents website which only offered two (pretty ordinary) properties. I went home and looked on Zuji and Travel and came up with 20+.

    Then it came to the flights. I needed four flights (SIN-BKK, BKK-CNX, CNX-HKT & HKT-BKK). Now after looking around at the respective carriers websites I found fares:
    Registered Users don't see this and have the option of removing all other advertisements.  Register HERE

    SIN-BKK - Swissair - $153 (Incl Taxes)
    BKK-CNX - Thai - $81 (Incl Taxes)
    CNX-HKT - Thai - $153 (Incl Taxes)
    HKT-BKK - Bangkok Airways - $85 (Incl Taxes)

    Now on the SIN-BKK sector she wasnt able to find the Swiss flight (closest was Indian Airlines at about $200) and on all the others she found the same fares, however a $14 "tax" was added to each of them plus a $30 booking fee.

    Now I can understand wanting to use an agent to have everything booked together (and she was a very helpful person, obviously knew quite a lot about the destinations), but I thought they were supposed to be cheaper, not more expensive (with less options)!
     
  2. Guest

    Guest Guest

    You hit the nail right on the head, why bother using a TA?
    Most of them charge an extra fee for CC now too :(

    The only reason I use one is to include stopovers in multi-destination itineries, and for double points on some credit cards, at times.

    TA's usually are "full service", compared to online being self serve, cheap nasty etc... with a little bit of travel knowledge booking online is definately the faster, cheaper and more efficient option.
     


  3. Damien

    Damien Member

    Aug 29, 2005
    300
    2
    BNE
    You're absolutely correct. I never use an agent for my personal travel.

    IMHO, just about anyone who can use the internet can get a better deal. It helps to have a little bit of knowledge, and that's where sites like this one come in handy.
     
  4. QF WP

    Moderator

    Jun 20, 2002
    14,246
    5,925
    Brisbane
    Flight Map:
    View my flight map
    Twitter:
    Facebook:
    Linkedin:
    I have finally given up using a TA - pretty much the same reasons as previous posters. It's sad when one can find deals or know information that the TA doesn't. I don't profess to know it all, but I can source whatever I need using friends through AFF and Flyertalk to help me with my research. I now book directly with the airlines.
     
  5. NM

    NM
    Moderator

    Aug 27, 2004
    15,698
    1,179
    Flight Map:
    View my flight map
    remember the TA is only going to "recommend" services that earn them a commission or for which they can charge you a service/booking fee. Avoid those fees by booking direct.

    And remember, Google is your friend :wink: .

    I made all the plans, bookings etc for a 3 month RTW holiday for 7 people without speaking with a TA once. Air travel booked as FF awards directly through QF. All accommodation booked via the net, mostly directly with the hotel chain web sites or email to some non-aligned hotels. Car rentals booked via the rental company web sites or travel service sites (sometimes gave a better deal). Trains in Europe booked on-line via Australian agent for Eurail. So I didn't have to pay anyone a commission and had access to all the options.

    Much of the fun was in planning the trip :lol: .

    But for complex business travel, the air tickets always go through a TA (a company requirement since they get a kickback from the airlines when it is all tracked via the agent). And I have often made them earn their money :shock: , with last minute cancellation, rebooking and changes to RTW fares.

    Things like calling at 8:30am and telling them to cancel my ticketed DONE4 that was supposed to leave tomorrow, and book me a BNE-SIN-KUL-HKG-BNE-MEL-SYD itinerary leaving on the 1:55pm flight today, and then book a DONE3 nested in that itinerary, travelling KUL-HKG-LAX-MIA-DFW-JFK-LHR-FRA-LHR-CDG-LHR-HKG-KUL. And it was all done for me to collect the first section as a paper ticket at the airport 3 hours later and the e-ticket receipt via email for the DONE3 before I left home!

    Of course it took most of the hours between receiving the 3am phone call to get to KL on the next available flight, and the TA starting work at 8:30am, to find the flights that I wanted with appropriate availability. That is when KVS is my friend :) .
     


  6. browski

    browski Established Member

    Sep 8, 2004
    1,457
    395
    Melbourne
    Domestic - book yourself.
    Internationally, there may be an argument to have a TA on hand if your are in a backwater and need your flight dates/times rebooked.

    However, now that I think about it, when this happens, I still find myself communicating with the airline directly in the country that i am in - so maybe TA's are redundant/futile.
     
  7. QF WP

    Moderator

    Jun 20, 2002
    14,246
    5,925
    Brisbane
    Flight Map:
    View my flight map
    Twitter:
    Facebook:
    Linkedin:
    browski, you answered your own question well.

    That's exactly the reason why for our upcoming trip to USA/Canada, I have booked directly through AA. Regardless of where we are, I feel comfortable ringing the AA Patinum Desk for any changes, etc.

    The service from QF Res USA is very hit and miss and I would rather be transferred through to Premium Desk in Camberwell, but if I'm ringing at a time that it isn't operating, I'll get normal Res staff. Ask them anything about AA or AS flights and I'm not sure I'll get the right answer and a timely one at that.
     
  8. icarus

    icarus Member

    Feb 15, 2005
    117
    18
    CBR
    Flight Map:
    View my flight map
    I've also given up using a TA after my last trip to the US, where I wound up basically finding most of my own fares and reorganising most of the arrangements she put in place. The hotels she was able to offer in the US looked OK until I went and read some reviews on TripAdvisor.com and realised that in fact they weren't fit for rodents. I went back to her with the details of a few well-priced, well-reviewed hotels on that site and she wasn't able to book them for me. So I booked myself over the internet or by phone. I had no trouble with any of the arrangements.

    For my stint in New York I wanted to book tickets to several Broadway shows. She was able to offer me very inexpensive ($80 AUD) tickets, but only to three popular shows that are already touring Australia. Also at that price I doubt the seating would have been good - there wasn't an opportunity to check out the seats in advance. Instead I trawled broadway.com and telecharge.com and bought premium seats for five shows. They cost US$100-odd each, but I was able to look at the seating plan and choose, as well as obtain a lot more information about each show.

    Finally, I was also really disappointed in the flights booked. I was travelling to Chicago (from SLC) and then New York, and in each case MDW and LaGuardia were the closest airports. The agent could only offer me wildly incovenient times and multi-leg journeys. A bit of research on Expedia showed me that I could get cheaper and way more convenient and quicker flights by travelling to ORD and JFK instead. Again it had not occurred to the agent to look at these options, and I had to ring her and ask her to book for me the flights that I had found online. While these airports are a few minutes further from my destinations, as I usually organise to be picked up by a town car rather than a cab, this has very little impact. (She was also not able to organise the town cars for me, which I was also able to do quickly and easily by phone and internet). She also didn't prearrange seating on the flights; no biggie, but again it's actually very easy to do online.

    I was also ultimately very annoyed when I stipulated that I was choosing slightly more expensive AA flights because I wanted to ensure that I received FF points and SCs. I had her confirm this for me twice. Then the flights showed up on my FF statement but with no points or SCs against them on the basis that they were not eligible flights. This I am really annoyed about because I could have booked less expensive flights (with better service) on another carrier whose programme I also belong to.

    When I wanted to alter flights I just called the airline directly. I was surprised to find that I actually got a much cheaper fare that way.

    All in all there was absolutely no point in using a travel agent for this trip; I did most of the work myself, saved no money and wasted. If I were travelling somewhere exotic, and needed specialist information about travel requirements and so forth, then I might use an agent, but I'd still doublecheck most of what was offered.

    The problem with discount of chain TAs is that they are focused on price rather than service, but it is only service that will distinguish them from DIY websites and the like.
     
  9. aasz1978

    aasz1978 Member

    Jan 12, 2005
    126
    1
    People use TA because:

    (a) To book a seat well in advance to ensure a cheap seat for being an early bird;

    (b) To rely on their service to tell us what to expect if you're on tour. Nowadays, they're just more of the money grabber rather than providing a service.

    (c) To book a seat but doesn't have to pay until 1 month before departure so some cash flow benefit here. If you pay online, you'll be charged the airfare straight away.

    (d) You get to choose your class. It's unlikely a web-based reservation would give you a straight W class price.
     
  10. Damien

    Damien Member

    Aug 29, 2005
    300
    2
    BNE
    Just in case there are any doubts, that includes Qantas Travel as well. I had a nice voucher because a flight crew went missing that could only be used on Qantas flights booked via Qantas travel.

    I went in and booked some flights, and they charged me $28 for the privilege. :(
     
  11. MetroAir

    MetroAir Guest

    I'd have to agree with the comments posted regarding 'shop front' travel agents.

    However, if you have a cc which has travel booking, they can be quite helpful.

    I now use my AMEX concierge travel sevice - not only do they use their booking engines but troll the internet.

    If I've ever made a suggestion that I've found, they are either on to it or will go and find it.

    I'm sure they are not all like that - this is their premium desk - they have also found me things like tickets and restaurant res, while I am o/s, with a reverse charges call back to Oz to organise, on occasion with 1/2 an hours notice.

    I now give them vague ideas and they come back having done the work.

    Cheers
     
  12. icarus

    icarus Member

    Feb 15, 2005
    117
    18
    CBR
    Flight Map:
    View my flight map
    MetroAir, that is a great idea. I have a Platinum MC and have hardly used the concierge service except for a couple of price comparisons. I suppose I didn't think of it because I expected that service from the TA, but I will certainly do it next time. Thanks so much for the suggestion!
     
  13. Mal

    Mal Enthusiast

    Dec 25, 2004
    12,215
    1,290
    London
    Flight Map:
    View my flight map
    How long till this thread is quoted on a major australian newspaper with a story like "New Breed of savvy traveller shuns Travel agents" :)

    I only like to use a TA in limited cases.

    1) When I have a tour I'm interested in. It can get very messy trying to organise a tour plus airfares. Then the tour gets moved, and you've already ticketted... loss of a few dollars and extra stress to change flights if you've done it yourself.

    2) Very complex routing. RTW comes to mind here.

    3) Booking certain tickets where the rules allow additional sectors (sometimes for free), but online booking won't assist with it.

    Friends get burnt going through poorly trained TA's. A friend was recently very thankful for advice and assistance I had given them. Advice that they needed to know but the TA didn't give. Even simple things like getting the Armadeus reference the TA didn't know how to do...

    TA's suit certain people. I'm not one of them often. Only if I have a booking type listed above would I visit one. Otherwise I do it all myself online.

    As flight booking engines get better and better, then more will be moved towards them...
     
  14. CO BNE

    CO BNE Junior Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    40
    0
    Like most of the responses here I have moved away completely from using a TA. Reasons as follows:

    1. My original FCm TA was fantastic and would do everything promptly or in a timely manner as well as always returning my call. She unfortunately went on maternity leave and her replacement did the following for me:

    - Returned my phone call to change K class tickets 1 week after I was due to have taken the flights after I had left numerous emails and phone messages. Thankfully I had changed them earlier going through the main phone line and having someone else change for me before the flights were meant to start.

    - Promised to return my call to book internal US tickets on AA (as I could not book as a non-US resident on AA or Travelocity). Never happened and I finally found that Expedia allowed me to do so, booked my tickets close to a week after my original request to the TA.

    Experience with Flight Centre:

    - The internal US tickets for my wife and in-laws above, I had all flight numbers and ticket class but their best fare was at least USD100 above.

    - Q class fare between BNE and LAX was USD300 more than what I found direct on Qantas. (can't get the Plat lack of challenge done but price was the factor here).


    So now I will do everything by myself. It may take my time but at least the end result will be either satisfactory or my own fault.
     
  15. N860CR

    N860CR Established Member

    Nov 30, 2004
    3,059
    650
    Brisbane & Sydney
    I had an absolute disaster with a travel agent last year that turned me against them. Made the mistake of booking a 3pm Jetstar flight connecting from a service arriving at 10am (agent did it all). Of course Jetstar moved the flight to 9am and the agent couldn't figure out how to fix the problem (in the end I had to cancel the ticket myself, and rebook myself on a non-direct QF service).

    Then she call's me 48 hours before I'm due to leave and says that the acommodation booking (NB: $2500 acommodation booking) had been stuffed up and the only solution they had was for me and my better half to share a twin room with a total stranger! (at a 5 star island resort!). The ultimate stuff up in my book! I figured using a TA was one way to at least ensure your booking goes smoothly, but in my book it's been the opposite. They can't offer seats any cheaper early in advance either, so there goes that arguement.

    Thought I'd give someone else a shot this time around, seems it didn't do any good!
     
  16. NM

    NM
    Moderator

    Aug 27, 2004
    15,698
    1,179
    Flight Map:
    View my flight map
    It would make an interesting story, I am sure ...
    For the last two of these I would chose to go directly to the airline to book rather than a TA.

    Not using a TA does not mean you have to do it all on-line. You can still make these bookings directly with an airline over the phone. And once travel has commenced, I always make flight changes directly with the airline.

    But when doing it all yourself, you need to be diligent, especially when making changes. Change the date of a flight and you may have to also make changes to the rental car and accommodation reservations. A good TA will do all of that for you ... but finding a good/competent TA can be a challenge.
     
  17. BlacKnox

    BlacKnox Active Member

    Jan 29, 2005
    732
    13
    I usually too book fares on-line. However two examples where TAs could be useful that come to mind:

    1. Purchasing airpasses linked to international tickets. For example, the ANA coupons when purchased with a * alliance fare to Japan; OneWorld passes for Africa etc. Often the non-residency requirement means that these can't be purchased on-line.

    2. For a honeymoon, so the TA could reference it in your PNR...

    However if anyone could show me how I could perform these two tasks myself, well .... then you can guess the rest 8) .
     
  18. bravoecho1

    bravoecho1 Member

    Sep 10, 2004
    221
    1
    OOL
    Had a great one last year whilst transitting LHR to Ireland.

    TA got confused about the time zone difference when flying from OZ to the UK and booked the LHR-ORK flight a day later than my arrival date.

    Pointed this out to her and she made the changes, forwarded me the new itinerary and off I went. Landed in LHR to be told that for some reason she had changed the booking back to the original date and that I would have to fly out the next day as all the flights were full.

    Went and found the Station Manager for EI, explained my predicament, and he managed to squeeze me on after a no-show (that is another funny story but not for her) and a gratuity :D .
     
  19. QF WP

    Moderator

    Jun 20, 2002
    14,246
    5,925
    Brisbane
    Flight Map:
    View my flight map
    Twitter:
    Facebook:
    Linkedin:
    Well, my normal TA (Flight Centre) just lost out on almost all our upcoming Jamaica/USA/Canada trip:

    $9K flights - booked directly through AA, as my guru/friend in SYD found H class fares better than my TA could find (because we booked through AA USA but ticketed at AA's North Sydney office, also missed out on some surcharges). Booked at night (when my TA wasn't working but AA USA were) and ticketed the next day (as there was an auto-cancel). Was able to use mt wife's AA Platinum status to access confirmed upgrades to First LAX/DFW/MIA and have them re-ticketed on the spot. So at ~ 8% commission, she lost ~$760

    $4,200 accomodation in Jamaica - she quoted $4,400 for garden view room at a different resort (not the one we asked), while a MEL-based TA who specialised in Jamacian bookings got us the right resort (including upgrade to ocean view) for $4,200. I told her the bad news, she wanted to re-quote (using their best price guarantee), I told her it was my wife's call that we went with the first, best and correct quote. So at ~15% commission, she's dropped another $630.

    Skiing accom at Big White, Canada - booked directly via specialist ski TA skimax (I wasn't about to let her anywhere near this booking). Cost ~ $2,500. So at ~15% commission, she's down $375.

    I booked our 2 hotels stays (3 nights in total) directly via the SPG website (but I included her TIDS number) so she'll get someting from that, but hardly recompense.

    So she lost ~ $1775 in commission.
     
  20. albatross710

    albatross710 Established Member

    May 15, 2004
    2,859
    254
    Brisbane
    Valuing adding in the supply chain

    The information transactions which result in us making bookings with TA (a person) need those people to add value to the process better than which we think we can achieve by doing it directly with the providers computer.

    If a person is going to act as an interface between the traveller and the computer then they need to do more than read the top line of the search results.

    With the ease with which we can now book/pay AA.com, check Wotif, compare avis/hertz etc the marginal cost to do this is much lower therefore we know that the TA has to provide a high level of service and value add for less than 'value' we can do it in the time we have available.

    The problem is whereas once the TA was the very experienced well travelled person competing direct with the distant airlines they are now competing with the likes of these discussion groups and the travelling knowledge of thousands!

    Lindsay's comment that he went with a ski specialist is probably a very strong message for the TA industry - find a niche and be good at it.


    Wayne
     
Loading...

Share This Page