As we all know, these days air travel is not the exciting, pleasurable experience it once was—words like "delays," "cancellations," "lost luggage" and "less-than-helpful customer service" spring more easily to mind than words like "relaxing," "convenient" and "fast." It's the price we pay to get where we want to go—but an unpleasant flight experience can be bad news for your clients, and even though it's out of your control, keeping clients happy is your business.
I thought of this on a recent trip I was taking from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport to Curaçao on American Airlines. Perhaps you saw in the newspapers or on TV recently how delays in baggage handling snagged the airline's entire flight schedule—I was unfortunate enough to be caught up in the middle of all that.
Delays and More Delays
Arriving at the airport two hours early, I spent that entire time in the check-in line with hundreds of other unhappy travelers. I would have missed my flight had it not been delayed an hour. But that hour turned into two, and suddenly I was in serious danger of missing my connecting flight in Miami. What made the situation easier to take were the phone calls from Cassandra at the public relations firm that had arranged the trip. In fact, she was aware of the delays before I even knew about them in the airport!
The Silver Lining
When I did in fact miss my connection—by 10 minutes—I turned on my phone upon landing in Miami to find several messages from Cassandra notifying me that yes, she was aware of the delays, and that although I would probably miss the last flight to Curaçao for the day, she had arranged accommodations at the airport Marriott for that evening and I would be on the first flight out in the morning. That kind of attention helped turn a travel nightmare into a pleasant evening. Although she isn't a travel agent, Cassandra's goal was to ensure as smooth a trip as possible for myself and a dozen other writers and editors flying from all over the United States into Curaçao for the weekend.
As travel agents, your main goal is to keep your clients satisfied and create the best travel experience for them that you can. While keeping tabs on all the comings and goings of a number of clients traveling at the same time can be a dizzying and frustrating experience, offering that peace of mind goes a long way toward building trust and loyalty.
Although I was traveling for work and my attitude was "I'll get there when I get there," the thought did cross my mind more than once that if I were on a personal vacation, this was the kind of day that could spoil a trip. Hearing a friendly voice offering practical advice and solutions is a godsend in that type of situation.
Michael Browne Managing Editor [email protected] 212-895-8251