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Handling Over-the-Top RequestsMarch 5, 2007 By: Mark Rogers, Joe Pike, Jennifer Merritt, David Eisen, Camie Foster Travel Agent
What to do when clients have unusual, tricky or downright silly requests
Esat and Engin Kadaster
International Travel Esat and Engin Kadaster, owners of Newport
International Travel in
unusual requests. Esat recalls once having less than a week to arrange all the
details for a private dinner that a corporate client needed to host for about
150 VIPs in a remote part of
Another unique challenge the Kadasters have met not once but
twice has been the securing of multiple permissions for a client who wanted to
make the rigorous three-mile swim between the continents of Europe and Asia,
inspired by Lord Byron's swim across the
almost two centuries earlier.
Each time, the Kadasters needed to obtain permission from
about a dozen central and municipal government and military agencies, not only
to allow the client to swim in a restricted area, but also to halt seagoing
traffic through the busy straits. They worked with personal contacts in various
political offices in
and they used professional relationships they'd nurtured during decades of
travel operations in that country to fulfill both clients' requests.
Lewis Travel David Pistachio, an agent with Lewis
high-maintenance client. "She wanted me to guarantee her an aisle seat on
an airplane because she was having her hair done," he recalls, adding that
he didn't pursue the logic behind her thinking. "I just said, 'Yes, I'll
get you an aisle seat."
Luckily, Pistachio had access to the seating chart and knew
he could obtain the aisle. "I don't know what it had to do with
anything," he says. "I guess she thought the windows would roll down."
Diplomat Travel Agency "I had a client about a
year ago ask me how she can get three gallons of breast milk on an
airplane," says Mike O'Malley, co-owner of Diplomat Travel Agency in
she had premature labor and had the baby. She had to get the baby back on the
plane. We advised her to freeze the milk and put it in a cooler, and she got it
through baggage that way."
Vacation Center/American Express "One of the most unusual travel
requests I've ever fielded as an agent was when a man called into AVC/American
Express to book a vacation for himself and his mistress," recalls Jeffrey
Anderson, vice president of marketing at California-based AVC. "He wanted
to make sure that we didn't contact him on his house phone, and that his wife
was not able to access the booking. Although we don't condone infidelity, AVC
prides itself on its level of integrity and by keeping our customer's
information confidential. Turns out, the man cancelled his booking a month
before they were set to sail on the cruise—because his wife found out about his
Ambassador Cruises "The geographically
illiterate sometimes create cruise doozies, such as asking to sail from
back in a week," says Mary Brennan, owner of Ambassador Cruises, an agency
researchable requests was simple on its face: to cruise roundtrip between
cruise product exists to fulfill this wish, so I cobbled together a route from
Elizabeth 2, with a transfer on a ferry to the Canary Islands, followed by
a merchant ship voyage to
The reverse course to return to
the voyages did not materialize—but, I definitely learned about the many forms
of sea travel."
Earle Travel According to Jane Essenburg of Earle
unusual requests are usually about personal services that make a person feel at
For example, she once had a client who loved his dog so much
the dog went on vacation with him and his wife to
was so beloved, he did not ride in cargo; he rode on a seat in the
recalls. "At that point, the fare on the
Essenburg says that she didn't have any trouble arranging
Fido's travel and accommodations, since
Michael's Travel Centre "We had a group
people, and two days before they were scheduled to depart, I got a phone
call," says Diane Embree, travel consultant for Michael's Travel Centre in
"The group leader wanted the group to be met on arrival
with a special gift for each member: top quality chopsticks with their names in
both English and Japanese characters." Embree was able to fulfill the
short-order request by contacting a Japan-based tour operator.
Connoisseur's Travel "I hate to say no to a
client," says Ada King, co-owner of Chicago-based Connoisseur's Travel.
"Ninety-nine percent of the time, I can make it happen."
Part of this ability to meet expectations is King's depth of
experience of the destinations she sells.
"A person traveling to
dinner with the maharaja?' and I'll say sure. I've been to
so I have superb contacts and ground operators that I work with."
King recalls an unusually demanding request: A client wanted
to get married in
hotels. The problem was they were booking only three weeks out.
"It wasn't easy," says King. "But they had a
nice budget, so I was able to arrange a driver to meet them and take them to
the Italian consulate in
for all of the wedding documents they'd need, and I was able to book them into
the hotels they wanted."
Once again, King had the contacts—she knew who to call to
make things happen on short notice.
—David Eisen, Camie Foster, Jennifer Merritt, Joseph Pike and Mark Rogers