A Shoulder to Lean On

Acting fast, Hawaii wholesalers take care of displaced clients

By: Marty Wentzel

Like most everyone in the travel industry, Hawaii wholesalers got caught off-guard by the March 31 demise of Aloha Airlines and the April 3 shutdown of ATA.

A majority of wholesalers demonstrated support of clients who were holding tickets on those carriers by crediting the full value of the fare toward a new flight, with the client responsible for any increase in cost. One such company was All About Hawaii.

“We took a proactive role in contacting our travel agent partners and supplying them with information about our defined policy,” said All About Hawaii president Brent Mayes. “We posted policies on our Web site with an exclusive e-mail address to help handle queries, and we dedicated staff to reaccommodate passengers at the best-available rates.”

As of April 5, the Tigard, Ore.-based wholesaler had taken care of nearly all of its affected passengers.

“The speedy turnaround was a credit to the experience and knowledge of our employees and travel agent partners,” said Mayes.

Pleasant Holidays took a similar strategy, acting fast to take care of displaced clients.

“The suppliers were wonderful and the agents were patient,” said Jack Richards, president of Pleasant Holidays, which also operates Hawaii World. “We had thousands of passengers impacted by the closures. We stepped up to the plate to take care of those clients because the integrity of our brands is the single most important thing we have.” Now, Pleasant is reassessing the strategy of doing business with an airline in bankruptcy, said Richards.

“We’re all used to airlines operating in and out of bankruptcy, and usually it doesn’t seem to make any difference,” he said. “This time, they caught us by surprise and we learned a lesson.”

Mark Travel Corp., which operates United, Funjet and Southwest Airlines Vacations, was affected by the airline shutdowns on several levels. It worked with ATA daily out of Chicago’s Midway Airport, and it collaborated with Aloha for both interisland and trans-Pacific business.

“Clients will be taking extra steps to see what sort of travel protection they can get in the future,” said Ray Snisky, executive vice president of LME, the holding company for Mark Travel.

Calling the closures “a sign of the times,” Snisky said the soaring cost of oil and poor economy mean only the best airlines can be successful.

“Hawaii is a microcosm of what’s happening to travelers’ confidence in the air industry overall,” he said.

Like its competitors, Classic Vacations applied the value of the Aloha and ATA tickets toward rebookings on other carriers.

“It represented a significant loss to us, as it did with all the wholesalers,” said Classic Vacations president Tim MacDonald, “but we have made a long-term promise to travel agents to help them succeed however we can, so we made the right decision.”

MacDonald hopes the recent publicity surrounding the airline shutdowns will give travel agents a public-relations opportunity.

“People who planned their vacations through agents had a relatively seamless experience versus those who booked on their own,” he said. “Clients need to know that in times of emergency, a whole team the wholesaler and travel agent will work to make sure the vacation still happens without financial hardship.”

CONTACT

All About Hawaii
800-274-8687
www.allabouthawaii.com

Apple Vacations
800-517-2000
www.applevacations.com

Classic Vacations
800-635-1333
www.classicvacations.com

Funjet Vacations
888-558-6654
www.funjet.com

Hawaii World
800-442-9244
www.hawaiiworld.com

Pleasant Holidays
800-448-3333
www.pleasantagent.com


AIRLINES

Southwest Airlines Vacations
800-243-8372
www.southwestvacations.com

United Vacations
888-854-3899
www.unitedvacations.com

American Airlines
800-433-7300
www.aa.com

Continental Airlines
800-523-3273
www.continental.com

Delta Airlines
800-221-1212
www.delta.com

go!
800-435-9462
www.iflygo.com

Hawaiian Airlines
800-367-5320
www.hawaiianair.com

Island Air
800-323-3345
www.islandair.com

Northwest Airlines
800-225-2525
www.nwa.com

United Airlines
800-241-6522
www.united.com

>