The importance of travel agents to the traveling public was underscored by Travel Leaders release of case studies on how travel agents help out clients when disaster strikes.
Travel Leaders promotion of its agent’s also offers fresh evidence of the real value travel agents delivers to their clients, the importance of good communication with clients and agents’ professionalism.
Travel Leaders cites agent response to all types of problems ranging from blizzards, thunderstorms, hurricanes and volcanic eruptions to earthquakes, civil unrest and influenza outbreaks. “In recent years, travelers have had to navigate through myriad events – some catastrophic – that have often resulted in delayed or even canceled flights,” Travel Leaders notes.
“Travelers have often been caught off guard, and in many cases, stuck. Yet those who book their travel through Travel Leaders travel agents have the peace-of-mind in knowing that they have an advocate in their corner – a real, live, accessible human – doing everything possible behind the scenes to get them home safely or get them to their final destination. As a network with hundreds of travel agencies throughout the United States, Travel Leaders also uses Facebook and Twitter to communicate with travelers in times of crisis, “ the company reports.
“‘Neither rain, nor sleet’ begins the postal service’s oft-cited informal creed, but in the case of travel agents, it’s been blizzards, thunderstorms, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and civil unrest – and the inevitable delays or cancellations of flights – when travelers have found comfort in knowing that we’re with them every step of their journey,” noted Roger E. Block, President of Travel Leaders Franchise Group.
“Travelers who find their flights canceled or delayed due to something as simple as mechanical issues know that life can get very complicated if they hadn’t initiated their travel through a real live travel agent. As so many events have demonstrated over the past few months, we’re working 24/7 to ensure our clients are safely getting where they need to be,” Block said.
Block pointed to a number of cases in which Travel Leaders travel agents saved the day for their clients, whether they were experiencing cancellations or delays due to bad weather, civil unrest or recent earthquakes.
Travel Leaders case studies include:
“We had two travelers scheduled to leave Tokyo Narita at 2:30 p.m. last Friday, and we learned they were on the plane, taxiing to the runway for takeoff when the earthquake hit. Their flight was delayed six hours and finally departed for Detroit at 8:59 p.m. As they were on the tarmac in Narita, we were in touch with them and protected them on a later flight from Detroit to Cincinnati, reserving a one-way rental car in case they missed their 9:45 p.m. connection home.” Dave Hershberger – Travel Leaders (Cincinnati, OH)
My clients were on a 12-day tour in Egypt, and everything was going great until day nine of the tour (January 28) when they were flying from Abu Simbel to Alexandria. Because of the unrest in Egypt, I called the hotel in Alexandria where my clients were due to stay and was advised that they had not shown up just yet. After several hours, I received a call at home from my clients (I had given my clients my home phone and cell phone to call in case they needed anything). After advising my clients about the seriousness of the situation, I went into immediate action in securing new flights booked for Sunday, January 30, out of Cairo. With the changing situation, I was repeatedly on the phone with them, rebooking them and working with their tour operator until they were safely evacuated out of Egypt.” Terri Yee – Travel Leaders (Tulsa, OK)
“I booked clients on a dive tour to Cozumel scheduled to depart Houston on February 4 and return on February 11. Unfortunately, Houston was hit with an ice storm on the evening of February 3. On the previous evening, I learned that their airline was canceling all its flights beginning in the afternoon of February 3 through the afternoon of February 4 and immediately contacted my clients to let them know that their flights would be canceled. My client asked me what I was talking about, and I said due to the weather, I needed to reschedule their flights. She said, ‘LuAnn, we would have never known this had we booked online and you took immediate action to get us rescheduled.’ I was able to get them rescheduled for Sunday, and while I had the tour operator on the phone, their updated air information was e-mailed to me.” LuAnn Harden, CTC – Travel Leaders (Houston, TX)
“We had a couple returning from a 14-day cruise to Hawaii that sailed round trip from Los Angeles, scheduled to return on February 2. We checked the flights that had been arranged through the cruise line, and we found that their flight through Chicago had been canceled due to a major blizzard there. On their behalf, we contacted the airline and were able to reschedule their flight to a later departure from Los Angeles via Denver that same afternoon. As the clients were at sea, there was no way to phone them to let them know about this new flight arrangement, but we e-mailed them and also left a voice mail message for them. Our clients were able to retrieve their message and were able to proceed to the airport in confidence, knowing that they would be able to return home that same day. Our clients later told us they were prepared to spend several unplanned days in the Los Angeles area until they could return home, and our message to them was such a pleasant surprise!” Lisa Gilliatt
“During a blizzard in the Midwest in early February, I had a passenger at a large conference in Florida who called to find out his alternate options to get home. He was amazed that I was able to get him home the same day through an unaffected connecting city. All of his colleagues were told they could not get out for another three days. I received four bookings from new clients within the next week due to his referrals.” Lori Kowalski – Travel Leaders (Menasha, WI)
“We had a group of three couples traveling from Cedar Rapids to Cancun. They had boarded their flight in Cedar Rapids, and after sitting on the plane for quite a while, it was announced that the flight was canceled due to a mechanical issue. Unsure of how to change their reservations, they called us while standing in a long line at the airport with other stranded passengers. We had researched their flight options and had recommendations for them before they arrived at the counter and we continued counseling them as they worked with the airline representative. Our clients listened to our recommendation and followed our advice, and they arrived in warm sunny Cancun early the next afternoon. Due to our relationship with the tour company these reservations were booked through, and our relationship with the representatives at the hotel, we were able to extend their reservations with both the hotel and airline so they would not miss any of their all inclusive prepaid vacation.” Lisa Gilliatt – Travel Leaders (Cedar Rapids, IA)
“As each of these situations underscores, you just never know when your travel plans might be disrupted, and when they are, there’s nothing worse than having to stand in a long line at the airport hoping beyond hope that you’ll get the last seat on the next available flight,” Block added. “Fortunately, savvy travelers who have made their travel arrangements through Travel Leaders travel agents move to the front of the line with expert care. We’re with our clients from the time they begin their planning right until they return home safely,” Block said.
Block cited the results from a recent poll conducted of 245 Travel Leaders travel agents (January 19-March 2, 2011) that asked, “What’s the most important thing you’ve done for clients who have been impacted by canceled flights?” A plurality (38 percent) responded, “Book them on the next available flight,” while another 24 percent said, “Been available 24/7,” and another 18 percent said, “Handholding them.” According to Block, Travel Leaders travel agents typically provide all those types of services, in addition to helping snag the last hotel room or rental car during difficult situations.