Storms Make Travel Agents Work Overtime

by Richard D’Ambrosio
Storms Make Travel Agents Work Overtime

 
So far this fall and winter, the Midwest has been hit by a huge ice storm; massive snow storms smashed into the Pacific Coast and the Rockies; and a nor’easter this week hit the Atlantic Seaboard all the way up to New England.

“Weather is always a complicating factor in the winter. My work hours have no boundaries,” said Deborah Director of Boca Raton, FL. “Travel agents work without regard to holidays, nights, weekends. I’m always on call during hurricane season.”

During Hurricane Matthew in October, Director had a group of six women flying from Chicago to Miami for a ladies’ getaway. “At the last minute, I was able to get the airline and hotel to cancel their reservations without penalties, and I rerouted the whole group of six to Phoenix.”

Kyle Seltzer of New York City owns his own SmartFlyer affiliate agency. He was in London when a hurricane and 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit El Salvador and Nicaragua over the Thanksgiving holiday.  “I was up until about four or five in the morning, waiting for American Airlines to issue my clients a travel waiver. Availability was limited because everyone else was changing their plans to get out of the country.”

Jay Dill, owner at the Travel Junkie, Wichita, KS, recalled a weather event from the winter of 2014, when he had 14 clients on an awards trip in Cancun. “The morning of their return, we had a big snow storm in Wichita that closed the airport. We started with the airfare, as no one was flying into Wichita, my first priority is to secure space on the best flights I could for my clients when the airport reopened,” he said. “Itineraries from Cancun to Wichita were slim and they had no accommodations for the night, so it made the most sense to let them fly to Houston as planned. I was able to re-accommodate all the flights from Houston to Wichita for the next day. Once that was confirmed, I found rooms in Houston for the group and arranged for the hotel to pick up the group as it arrived.”

Dill did all of this before the group leader even found out the flights were cancelled.

Then he made sure to let the group know to get room receipts so he could help them get their travel insurance claims started. “Instead of dealing with this monster snow storm and multiple hours on hold (from Mexico), they went and had a goodbye brunch and a few mimosas,” Dill said.

Always on call
“I had to work on my father’s 75th birthday,” Seltzer said. “I had to skip out for 30 minutes to take care of a client. My friends and family understand that my schedule isn’t predictable.”

“In general I consider myself to be ‘on call’ while clients are traveling—but when there is a hurricane, or a volcano eruption, or a public transport strike, I make sure to contact my clients (even on weekends/evenings)—to let them know I am aware of any situations that might result in itinerary changes and also that I am here to help them sort it out,” agreed Leila Peverett Coe of World Class Travel in Orlando, FL.  “I don't want them to have to contact me first with their concerns; I'd rather let them know I am aware and keeping an eye out for any possible issues.”

Darby Savasta of Darby's Destinations LLC in Mansfield, MA, constantly watches the weather to try to advise her clients in advance of any issues. “Several times I was able to get my clients flights and or travel dates moved around so they are able to get out on their vacation,” she said.

She also gets alerts of any flight changes through TripCase, usually before the client is even aware there is a delay. “I find it is easier to change the clients with the airline before the flights are cancelled and there are 100 other travelers finding the same seats,” she said. “The traveling client becomes the priority even if it is a weekend.”

Crises have silver linings
Responding in times of unexpected difficulty helps travel agents raise the importance of what they do and adds credibility for when they charge a service fee. “I think our profession is gaining more respect and understanding,” Seltzer said.

While the hectic nature of living beholden to Mother Nature has its negatives, most agents said they greatly enjoy the ability to serve others, and every now and then, they can see bright silver linings in tempestuous clouds.

Seltzer recalled a note his clients in Nicaragua sent him a week or so after their disrupted Thanksgiving. “They thanked me and told me not to worry because even though they didn’t get to spend Thanksgiving Day in their beautiful hotel, the experience reminded them about how to be thankful for what we do have, and how fast things can go bad. I thought that was a great takeaway.”

  5
  1
Tip of the Day

As an industry, we are selling experiences and travel. What better connection can we make than suitcases for children? I want to put a call out to fellow advisors to find out who runs the foster care in their community and ask them to collect luggage, book bags, toiletries and such from their clients.

Anita English, My Travel Advisor

Daily Top List

Best Spots for Cliff Jumping in Ireland

1. County Antrim

2. County Donegal

3. County Sligo

4. County Galway

5. County Kerry

Source: CNN

TMR THIS WEEK
http://services.travelsavers.com/AMGService.svc/REST/GetImage?ImageID=0dc070f2-85e6-e811-ba59-782bcb66a2f2

Beyond Booking Travel: Where the True Impact Lies

In an industry that advances thanks to the traveling public’s leisure choices, some travel players are doing their part to ignite positive change that will have long-lasting effects.

TMR Recommendations
Top Stories
Supplier ‘Come Back’ Programs Raise Ire of Destination Wedding Specialists
Supplier ‘Come Back’ Programs Raise Ire of Destination Wedding Specialists

Travel advisors share their dissatisfaction with supplier programs that encourage guests to steer future bookings away from their agent.

Despite Record Disruptions, Most Travelers Still Don’t Opt for Insurance
Despite Record Disruptions, Most Travelers Still Don’t Opt for Insurance

One out of two vacationers still don’t purchase insurance, despite three out of four having dealt with flight delays, and nearly half having their luggage delayed or lost.

How to Use Stories to Sell Travel in Three Easy Steps
How to Use Stories to Sell Travel in Three Easy Steps

A motivational speaker urges travel advisors to grow their sales by honing their strategic storytelling skills.

Travel Industry Assesses Impact from Midterm Elections
Travel Industry Assesses Impact from Midterm Elections

Top Washington, D.C.-based associations begin to chart the impact on travel.

Paying to Play: Travel Agents Up 2019 Advertising Budgets
Paying to Play: Travel Agents Up 2019 Advertising Budgets

Lainie Melnick uses paid advertising in the local newspaper to beat a tough competitor, while Gary Smith’s paid Facebook ads helped grow his business by 37 percent. Sometimes you have to spend money to make money.

How Can Travel Agents Protect Client Relationships with Hotels?
How Can Travel Agents Protect Client Relationships with Hotels?

What you need to know about executing an agreement that tells hotel management that you are bringing them a business opportunity and you expect to be treated respectfully.

News Briefs
TMR Report Cards & Outlooks
Advertiser's Voice
Advertiser's Voice: Tauck