This week our members discuss the pros and cons of booking with a travel agent. While some find travel agents invaluable, others see little benefit and prefer to book their own travel online.

There are numerous reasons to book with an agent. As well as offering specialised advice, travel agents often have access to cheaper airfares that you may not be able to find by booking directly with the airline. For example, agents may be able to offer special round-the-world tickets, or book into a specific fare class that will earn you more frequent flyer points.

The last time they found a considerably cheaper companion fare with JAL that i would never have found although it ultimately ended up $200 dearer than the online fare on a $6000 fare that QF quoted $7200 for and I delayed the payment to my next credit card payment cycle.

Some members use a travel agent – even if it ends up costing slightly more – for the hassle-free service. When booking with an agent, they also take on the responsibility of dealing with any delays, cancellations or travel emergencies that may arise.

Regular readers will know I’m a TA fan and have used mine for over 7 years for great deal of overseas travel – flights, tours, hotels…

You shouldn’t go to a TA to get cheaper prices. I sometime get cheaper hotels but for flights its the same price as airlines charge. Sometimes I pay a bit more for hotels, but I find its worth it as part of the wider ‘package’.

But there are some downsides to using a travel agent, as one member recently discovered when making a Singapore Airlines booking. This member wanted to upgrade their booking using points, but found they were unable to manage their booking online. The member subsequently spent many hours making changes to the booking through the agent. And to add insult to injury, Singapore Airlines refused to honour the 15% discount for upgrades requested online.

Ultimately, the time spent toing and froing with the agent (very quick to take payment, very slow to respond to requests such as entering FF numbers) along with the loss of 15% online point discount far negated the small difference in price – my feeling is that I should have just done it online (would have saved a hour or two of time and quite a few thousand points).

One member has found that while travel agents are knowledgeable when it comes to airfares, many are unaware of the intricacies of frequent flyer programs. Another member was unhappy with the change fees charged by their agent. Finally, one member believes that there is no benefit of using an agent when most fares can be booked for the same price – or cheaper – online.

Our members believe that ultimately, the experience depends on the quality of the travel agent. This can vary immensely, but many travel agents do offer experience, knowledge and a willingness to help.

I think you can find a good TA then keep feeding them. If not, stick to online.

Do you use a travel agent? Share your experience HERE.

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]