When Arik Anderson, vice president of Executive Travel Center in
Rocklin, Calif., got a call from some clients, he knew he might
“My clients were in the Air France lounge waiting for departure
and a representative offered to take their coats,” he recalls. “The
rep assured my clients the coats would be put on the plane for
“The coats were never returned and when I wrote a letter, the
airline responded with two $100 checks one for each coat,” Anderson
“These were very expensive coats, so that just wasn’t going to
Anderson sought help from his attorney, who wrote Air France
threatening legal action if proper compensation were not offered.
“As soon as they saw the attorney getting involved, they wanted to
deal with it.”
See You In Court
Agents generally handle things themselves but some situations,
like Anderson’s problem, require knowledge of the law and the time
to pursue justice. Most travel agents don’t possess either.
“You need to have an attorney to consult for revising contracts,
issuing engagement letters, etcetera,” says Brian Breiter, an
attorney based in Los Angeles. He also suggests consulting an
attorney for help in recovering bad debts and drafting some
letters, although legal advice is optional in such areas.
The real value of legal counsel is in litigation or in disputes
with airlines, rental car agencies and tour operators.
“You might need a refund for someone who got sick on a cruise
ship or from a contractor that went out of business,” Breiter
explains, adding that it is best to have a relationship with a
reputable attorney before you need one.
Anderson agrees. “I have a couple of attorneys I work with
closely to write letters and help me handle disputes.”
He also has negotiated a thrifty deal. “You can trade off
services,” he adds, “otherwise it can be expensive.”
The best way to find a general-purpose attorney is to ask
friends and colleagues for referrals, especially as you need
counsel with expertise in travel matters.
If you can’t find a referral, a quick call to the local bar
association should yield the names of reputable attorneys in your
By The Numbers
“Everybody with their own business needs a CPA, if only for
compliance issues,” advises Lisa Drake, a certified public
accountant with Barnes & Associates of San Rafael, Calif. “You
know travel, not the tax code.”
The value of a good accountant can go beyond filing your tax
returns, however. Your accountant can be a good financial advisor
as well, providing strategic analysis, growth planning and general
“I use my accountant for advice such as whether I should buy
another travel agency, how to determine compensation for lead
agents based on their sales, etcetera,” says Billie Ruff, owner and
manager of Travel Cafe in Billings, Mont.
“I am not qualified to do my own taxes, so it is vital that he
takes care of that as well.” she said.
Drake offers two key tips for finding a good accountant:
Look for expertise in your line of business.
Even a general practice should have someone with experience in
travel or an analogous industry.
Interview CPAs as you would prospective employees and ask to
meet the whole team. Sometimes the principal closes the account,
but others in the office actually work on it.
Size is also a consideration. “Some people are comfortable with
bigger firms, others with small firms,” Drake says.
Barnes & Associates, for example, is a small firm. “We give
really personal attention to our clients without a lot of
hierarchy. We don’t have banks of researchers researching client
questions and then reporting up the command chain.”
If you’re unsure about what you want and need, schedule
interviews with several firms before making a choice about the
right one for you.
Ask colleagues for referrals or check with your local or state
association of CPAs for a list of firms in your town.