Updated October 20, 2016
Travel professionals are, well, in a huff over a story in yesterday’s Huffington Post that dissed human agents in favor of Google Flights.
The article, titled “7 Google Flights Tricks That Are Better Than Any Travel Agent. And cheaper, too!”, claimed the online search can do the following things that a good agent cannot:
1. The ability to alert you when prices are likely to rise.
2. The ability to show you a map of a region, such as Europe, showing prices for all the countries at once.
3. Click on “I’m feeling lucky” and let Google plan a trip for you.
4. Find out which flights are best based on price and speed.
5. Find you the lowest-priced ticket on any day.
6. Offer you flights that are less expensive than one you are looking at if you are willing to change your time or day of departure.
7. Monitor the price of an itinerary for you.
I don’t know about you, but my travel agent can certainly do these things (even if they have to go to Google Flights to get that map), and a lot more.
Somehow I don’t feel lucky enough to let a computer plan my dream trip. I’d much prefer someone who has been there, someone who has spent his or her life in the travel industry and taken some time to get to know me personally, someone who has been on all the different cruise ships and stayed at many of the Caribbean resorts, to pick the one they think will be just right.
Said Karin Kavanagh O'Keefe of Fun 'n' Sun Travel & Cruise, "I had to laugh about the 'feeling lucky' hack. Are there really people out there who think Google can plan their 'dream trip' - without finding out what their dreams are?"
"ARE YOU KIDDING ME???" posted Beverly Falley of Island Dreams Travel. "Any professional travel agent can do all of these things and sooooooo much more! That's what we do! Go ahead and let Google be responsible for your vacation. It only takes one disaster to prove that only a professional should be booking your vacation. Do you really want to book an important, special, once-in-a-lifetime trip through GOOGLE??? I can guarantee you will pay more and get less. The travel agent community has access to exclusive offers and specials and 'perks' not available anywhere else. Why would anyone not take advantage of this valuable resource?"
And BCD Travel's Terry Jones noted that "an agent could work 2-4-10 hours on a reservation to make sure all the details are done and best rates are found, and help with all aspects of your trip" for perhaps a $25 fee that covers all its work, including "a cancelled flight, no charge. Lost baggage, no charge. Any extra assistance at all, no extra charge. So travelers should ask themselves what is your time worth and isn't it worth having a professional do your work for you? Would you let us do your job?"
In short, said Lynn Aston Lambert at Cruise Holidays, "Good luck to anyone that books their 'dream' vacation like that. They get what they pay for! If there's any problems, sure, go ahead and call Mr. Google to see how he can help."
But Faith Sproule of Niche Travel Group in Nova Scotia, Canada, took a more if-you-can't-beat-'em-then-join-'em approach to Google Flights. "I use Google Flights as my search engine and tell my clients to do the same," she posted on Facebook. "I then book with Intair; sometimes I have to send Intair a screen shot of the Google itinerary because the paired airlines don't pop into Sabre/Apollo. Right now Google Flights is the fastest search engine in the business and an agent's best friend!"