Are travel agents worth the extra money?

By | February 25th, 2008

Hardly a week goes by that I don’t recommend the services of a competent travel agent in one of my columns. And the conventional wisdom — which is that a real travel agent can make your trip better — has gone unchallenged for years, if not by me then by my readers. Until last week.

Bob Barstow, a long-time reader of my stories, e-mailed me to question the validity of that claim.

In many, if not most of your columns, you give an impression about travel agencies that I just have not found to be true.

You imply that the business is full of agents dedicated to the travelers well-being, and will go out of their way for their customer. In all my years of traveling, both business and personal, I have yet to meet this agent.

Barstow suggests agents just book trips — and not always as efficiently as you can online.

Every single one I have worked with has done their job of arranging my booking — no more, no less.

For example, no agent has ever done a recommendation on which resort property I might like better. They have never asked what my interests are. I have even told them what I am looking for, and the best I get is a list of hotels that “would work for me.” When a flight has been messed up, no agent has ever done more for me than I have been able to do for myself on site.

He cites his most recent trip as an example.

Barstow used an agent to book a trip to Hawaii. “I asked him to look for flights that I could use my miles to upgrade to First Class,” he remembers. “He said he couldn’t do that, that I would have to handle it. Which I did, but when I made the arrangements, the Northwest Elite contact asked me why my travel agent didn’t do it in the first place. When I asked my agent, he said he couldn’t do it because it was travel agency policy not to use miles.”

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Then, on the ground, his disappointment with his agent deepened.

Both properties were Sheraton – on Hawaii and Oahu. I gave the agent my Starpoints number so I would get credit for the stays. He said, no problem.

Upon arrival at both properties, neither had the number in their system. I am still arguing with Starpoints for the credit. Because I paid the travel agency for the reservations, I am having difficulty getting credit for the stays. My receipts from both properties only show incidental charges, not the full amount I paid.

When contacting the agent, he has been no help. I get the impression that he really doesn’t care — we’ve taken the trip, he’s gotten his commission, case closed. He’s polite when I call, but gives the impression it’s not his problem.

Barstow’s question — and I think it’s a valid one — is, where can he find the go-the-extra-mile service travel agents are supposed to offer?

Are there any agents out there who care to answer?

  • MsBaitandSwitched

    If you have been;
    overcharged, mishandled or simply SCREWED by FAREBUZZ!!!…

    Try calling
    one of the big heads at (888) 808-4123 ext 138, good luck and expect to be
    ignored  as well!!!

  • Richardfreyy


    I know this is an old comment of yours, but it is just what I try to convey to my clients! Richard Frey

  • Andy wittal

    I support the above statement but for few reasons i support travel agents because they are the only people who help in finishing the trip safely and comfortably……..thanks alot…….
    Cheap Flight To tirana

  • vettori900

    Hi there travel  agents are worth enough for what they are doing according to me because i found their costmercare and guidance to finish off the trip is excellent…


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