Should I book airline tickets with a travel agent

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Jul 22, 2017
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I am planning a trip to Italy next year. Usually I book all my travel myself, but this time I am using a travel agent to help with tours and personal van transfers. I get the Elliott.org email every day, and I seem to remember people having trouble with the airlines if a travel agent booked their flight. If something goes wrong, and you need to change a flight at the last minute and you can't get a hold of your travel agent, or if you need a refund because of long delays, I seem to remember that it is better if you book your own flights so you aren't dealing with a middle man. The airline says to see the travel agent, and the travel agent says to talk to the airline. Am I remembering incorrectly?
Should I tell my travel agent when the time comes that I want to book my own flight to avoid any problems?
 

Neil Maley

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What you read is problems when ONLINE travel agencies - such as Priceline, Travelocity, etc. - book the tickets, not a real travel agent.

Online travel agencies are very different than a true travel agent. You are much better off booking with a real travel agent who is booking your land piece. You will have someone to call if your flights are canceled or delayed to rebook you or if there are any problems. You shouldn't have to wait on line with everyone else to rebook - you should be able to call your agent and have him or her take care of it for you if they booked your air. Just make sure it's a good, experienced travel agent and ask about the hours they work so you know if they are on duty when you are flying. Your travel agent will book directly with the airline and are for you in case anything goes wrong.

Travelocity or Orbitz do nothing to help - people might save a few dollars booking through one of them but if your flight is canceled - you are on your own. They do not help you - there is no customer service. And that's the difference between OTA's and a real agent. If you are at the airport and the fight is canceled - the airline will tell you that Orbitz has to fix it, Orbitz will tell you the airline has to fix. They just point fingers at each other.

You can certainly book your own air but if something happens and your flights are canceled or delayed or changed - you have to fix it with the airline yourself. Your agent can't touch your tickets if she didn't book them. If your agent books it - you call him or her to fix it.
 
Nov 14, 2016
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What you read is problems when ONLINE travel agencies - such as Priceline, Travelocity, etc. - book the tickets, not a real travel agent.

Online travel agencies are very different than a true travel agent. You are much better off booking with a real travel agent who is booking your land piece if you want someone to call if your flights are canceled or delayed to rebook you or if there are any problems. Just make sure it's a good, experienced travel agent. Your travel agent will book diretly with the airline and are there in case anything goes wrong.

Travelocity or Orbitz do nothing to help - people might save a few dollars booking through one of them but if your flight is canceled - you are on your own. They do not help you - there is no customer service. And that's the difference between OTA's and a real agent.
Spot on, amigo. Keep preaching the good word! :)
 
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Jul 22, 2017
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Thank you. Most of the time, I can never reach her real-time. I usually leave a message and she gets back to me later. Also, with a trip to Europe, the flights will be at night, so if anything goes wrong, I probably won't be able to get a hold of her until the next morning, which wouldn't be of any help to me. If I do allow her to book the flights for me, and something goes wrong at the airport, will the airline help me directly, or will they make me wait until they can deal with the travel agent who booked the tickets?
 
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Neil Maley

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Thank you. Most of the time, I can never reach her real-time. I usually leave a message and she gets back to me later. Also, with a trip to Europe, the flights will be at night, so if anything goes wrong, I probably won't be able to get a hold of her until the next morning, which wouldn't be of any help to me. If I do allow her to book the flights for me, and something goes wrong at the airport, will the airline help me directly, or will they make me wait until they can deal with the travel agent who booked the tickets?
They will deal with you directly because she will book it directly with them. If you are comfortable doing your own air, by all means you can do it. Just buy directly through the airline, don't use an OTA. If you look at the complaints, it's either one of two things - they booked with an OTA and the flights were changed/canceled/they missed the flights. Or they didn't buy travel insurance, got sick and want a refund.

So buy direct and make sure you buy travel insurance so if you fall and break your leg the week before your trip, you don't lose your money.
 
Jul 22, 2017
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I wasn't sure if the travel agent got some kind of commission for booking the airline, and if she wouldn't like it if I suggested I purchase the tickets myself. Sounds like it doesn't matter either way. Thank you.
 

jsn55

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Therese, you are one smart cookie to ask these questions. The online agencies are so bad I refuse to call them 'travel', I refer to them as online booking agencies. Usually a real TA is the best ... but if you have any qualms about reaching her in the middle of her night, I'd do the booking myself. TAs are generally not paid by the airlines, but they can earn commish on other travel arrangements, so they often will book your air as well, as a service. If it's a simple routing, you could probably book yourself, as long as you are detail oriented.

To do that, just follow my plan: Do all your research, decide what you want, book it right up to the 'pay' part, make a note of all the details, read everything three times, and I mean everything, and log off. Go back again the next day and do it all over again. Have a calendar and all your passports in front of you. Double-check it all, triple check it all. Run it by your travelling companion. Do not be enticed by any 'big opportunities' or 'only 1 tix left' stuff. This should ensure that you get it right the first time.

Even young healthy people can trip and fall and break a bone, so buy some travel insurance, or use a credit card that has coverage. Again, read everything very carefully before committing. Based on a personal experience in Paris a couple of years ago, I advise everyone to obtain Emergency Evacuation coverage. My MedJet membership got us home after my husband broke his hip and saved my sanity. Again, kudos on being clever and proactive. Please don't hesitate to come back to us with any questions.
 

Neil Maley

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Dec 27, 2014
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We normally do not get a commission for booking airline tickets. Many have to charge a fee for booking tickets because we don't get paid.

I am never upset if a client wants to book their own air, I just like to be able to ensure that clients book air carefully. If there is a connecting flight, leave at least two hours in between connections in case your first flight is late do you don't miss the connection. And make sure you understand any visa requirements you might need.