Caribbean Travel Advisor, News

For Travel Agents, Dealing With Last-Minute Problems Is An Art Form

By: Joe Pike

One of the biggest reasons people use a travel advisor over an Online Travel Agency is so they have an actual person to talk to when obstacles arise during a vacation.

So, how does an agent deal with those last-minute problems?

Several top-notch travel specialists recently weighed in on the topic.

Here’s what they had to say

Aurelio Giordano of Ace World Travel

I actually just gave a talk on a panel in [Las] Vegas about the importance of using local [Destination Management Companies]. You know that 99 percent of our power is based on the relationships and trust we have cultivated with our operating partners around the world.

In the fall, I had a 40th anniversary couple traveling from the south of France over into Italy all the way down to the Amalfi coast. They started in Nice and on the third day was supposed to take a day trip to Monaco.

The day before they get notified that the tour got canceled because their driver contracted COVID and it was too short notice to find another driver. The operator was nice enough to refund everyone back their money but the couple was intent on going to Monaco anyway that day because it was the actual date of their anniversary.

The issue was that they had somehow convinced themselves that the operator was still obliged to pay for their transportation to get there. Obviously, we know that’s not the case because it was their own decision and discretion to still go there. But it was the beginning of their over two-week trip and I didn’t want them to start off with a sour taste in their mouth, especially not on the day of their anniversary.

So, my operator out there had priced out the cost of a round trip taxi fare and we decided to split the cost and offer it to them.

Everybody was happy and whatever it cost me was nothing compared to the good memories I left them with for their anniversary and all the people they’re going to tell about it and the future trips they, their family or friends might book with me.

These are some of the things we have to do sometimes to make the client happy and think about the longevity of that client relationship. I have lots of stories like this, but the point is none of that would have been possible if I didn’t have an existing trusting relationship and partnership with my ground operators all over the world.

Penny Sheldon of Peggy Sheldon Travel

I had a family of 11 going to Turks [and Caicos] when the first leg of their flight turned around and went back to the airport. No other flight was available from their departure city. I asked if they were willing to drive to another airport and was told, ‘definitely.’

I researched every airport within a three-hour drive until I could get all 11 of them on the same flight. After a two-hour drive, I later had arranged a park and fly hotel for a stay upon their return. The first leg was a forced overnight where I got them hotel rooms and then they took two flights to get there the next day.

At the same time, I worked with the property to extend their stay so they had their full seven nights and changed the flights home.

How did I accomplish all of this? 

Gave up Saturday plans, worked six straight hours and didn’t take the word ‘no’ for an answer. If someone dared to suggest it couldn’t/wouldn’t happen I asked to speak to a supervisor and even a supervisor’s supervisor. 

And some still ask why you need a travel agent.

Nikki Miller, founder of Travel With Nikki

This spring break I had an issue with a client and their Villa. The family/friend group had a seven-bedroom villa outside Playa del Carmen. When they arrived there was no air conditioning in the villa. The AC had been out for at least a week, if not more, and the villa management company didn’t inform the TO (Villas of Distinction) or the guests.

We were able to get the client moved after two nights to an amazing Villa in Tulum. It wasn’t the smoothest of processes, but we did get it done.

Communication is key. I check in with all clients after arrival to see how everything is going. During this check in the guest let me know about the AC issue.”

I was able to prompt her with guidance in asking for portable AC units and asking about the timeline for fixing the units to get a good idea of what our options could be.

We determined quickly that the AC wouldn’t be fixed until well into their stay, if at all during their stay. I had all of our text messages that the client had with me, as well as the client had with the house manager saved and ready to send off to Villas of Distinction.

With all of the details assembled quickly and efficiently, I was able to share everything we had already tried, and the options we had discussed.

This allowed Villas of Distinction to move quickly to get the travelers relocated to a second villa that had AC and still all of the amenities the travelers wanted.

When fixing an issue, an advisor needs to be prepared in advance. Before the trip begins is when you need to start making connections. You need connections with [tour operators] staff, and resort staff in advance of when you have issues. This way you’ve gotten to know your connections in a neutral environment.

You also need to have as many details as possible gathered before you start asking for help and resolutions. If you can show your partners that you’ve done a lot of footwork, but haven’t gotten anywhere, they are more likely to assist you.

Having a documentation process for the issue and how you’ve worked on resolving it is key. This will make it easy to copy and paste into an email to send off the contact information you have.

Emily Bertsch, an advisor with VIP Vacations.

The biggest issue that sticks out in my mind is with Frontier Airlines. I’ve had a client that I’ve been rescheduling since 2020. They are set to travel this June, so fingers crossed.

Frontier had major schedule changes and was unwilling to just refund the client’s money. They were insisting that we just move the funds to a new trip. When I went to use the funds, they gave me an expiration date.

When someone gives you an expiration date, you assume that means it expires at 11:59PM on that date, right? Well when I went to use it, Frontier told me it had expired at 2:12 a.m. on the expiration date.

This also began the time where Frontier got rid of all of their phone lines, so you had to submit a form online.

After fighting with six different people on this, I finally got someone to extend the expiration date.

So the lesson learned here: aside from not booking Frontier again, be persistent, especially when you know you have a case to fight.

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