There’s little doubt that the airline failures we’ve seen in recent weeks will have lingering effects on the industry as a whole. Some predict it will make the industry stronger; certainly it has helped the market share and clout of the airlines that compete in certain regions. Whether that’s a good thing for agents and consumers is another matter. Still, there is one aspect of these bankruptcies that can aid agents right now.
With images of airport chaos on the nightly news, and reports from friends and relatives who had their spring travel plans altered or canceled (I personally know two groups that were impacted by the closures), the role of travel agent as advocate has never been more important. As an agent, these groundings were undoubtedly challenging and, I’m sure, in many cases your clients might have been stranded, forced to pay more to change flights or had to cancel much-dreamed-about vacations. But for those who purchased tickets via the Internet or on their own without an agent, things were even more difficult. Having someone to call, to share information with, to sympathize with when everything went wrong is, in itself, hugely valuable.
As Christopher Elliott, the “Travel Troubleshooter,” wrote in his popular blog: “A competent travel professional can help you navigate the ins and outs of a bankruptcy-ridden airline industry. Before you book your next airline ticket, check with a travel pro and find out what you should do. It’s advice worth paying for.” Not surprisingly, ASTA has a similar message.
“The suspension of flight service by Aloha and ATA only serves to emphasize how critical it is that consumers receive sound, third-party advice, the kind that travel agents provide each and every day,” said Cheryl Hudak, ASTA president and CEO. “Travelers who use the services of a travel professional have the added security of having a professional help them sort through the many alternatives, from identifying schedules on alternate airlines to determining confirmed space and standby options. We are there for clients before, during and after a trip.”
This is a golden opportunity for agents to get the word out about yet another benefit they bring to the table before more consumers find themselves grounded. K.S.