Over the course of its 35 years, Up and Away Travel has stood out from its competition as one of the oldest airline ticket consolidators in North America. And now, with five offices spread across the nation, and hundreds of satisfied clients, Up and Away Travel has grown into one of the leading business-to-business travel agencies in New York.
The owner of Up and Away Travel, Terence Mascarenhas, has been working around travel for most of his life. An industry veteran, his business has managed to withstand the industry changes for more than three decades and has still continued to grow, even becoming one of the few travel agencies selected by American Express Travel to partner with.
“In March of 1984, we established our first office in New York City,” said Mascarenhas. “We just completed our 35th year last month.”
Before that, he worked as a manager for another travel company in New York for five years, after graduating from the University of Minnesota with an MBA in Marketing.
“Normally, MBAs don’t go and join a travel agency, but I loved the business,” he explained. “My father was a senior executive with Air India, so I had a feel and familiarity with the travel and aviation industry, so it was a natural flow for me.
“I really enjoyed the travel line of work. As someone once wisely said, ‘If you like what you do, you won’t have to work a day in your life.’ So that’s been my philosophy ever since.”
After getting his feet wet as a manager, he set out to open his own agency. “I always thought I would open a company someday, after being a travel agent and manager, so I opened Up and Away Travel. We immediately specialized in international traffic, and became one of the first consolidators in the United States.”
The term “travel consolidator” was a relatively new concept for the industry and was not widely known at the time. “In the mid-1980s, very few people knew what that term meant.”
“I jumped into [the business] headlong, and faced whatever challenges one faces when starting up a new business, mainly in building brand awareness and following up with marketing and sales to ensure that the agency not only survived, but thrived.”
Since its opening, the agency has promoted destinations all over the world, including throughout Europe, Asia and Africa.
Changing with the times
He described what business was like in those early days, and how new technologies impacted the way they do business. “The challenging aspect, as with anyone else, is the competition. The internet displaced many mom-and-pop operations, and made it easier for the airlines to go straight to the customer.”
This was a pivotal point for Mascarenhas, who had to learn to adapt his business to a changing industry, or risk losing everything he’d built. So, he chose to focus on providing full, personalized service.
“We had to take it upon ourselves to not just be an order-taker for travel, but to reinvent ourselves and create value for the customers. In that regard, our company has invested heavily in technology, in getting booking tools for our customers to be able to make their own flight reservations, hotel bookings, [and] car rentals … We like to pride ourselves on the high level of customer service and our willingness to make ourselves available to our [clients] all the time.”
Despite the ease with which people can set up their own travel agenda, there are quite a few customers who refuse to go online to make flight reservations, or other travel arrangements on their own, choosing instead to call over the phone and get professional assistance.
“They like the personal touch. They appreciate that, and we don’t hesitate to extend our expertise at any time.”
Partnering for success
For Mascarenhas, “going above and beyond” is more than just his company’s tag line. It is a motto he lives and works by. Keeping pace with the trends of most modern corporate agencies, Up and Away manages to stay a step ahead of their competitors by constantly upgrading their knowledge base and technology.
According to Mascarenhas, when it comes to succeeding in the travel industry, “love of the job is number one. Dedication and perseverance would be an underlying strength … as well as the ability to innovate.”
Ten years ago, Up and Away entered into a business partnership with American Express to further expand its brand and provide more services for its clientele. “We entered into a relationship with American Express in 2009, and it’s been a win-win situation for both sides. For us, it builds brand recognition, because we have the ability to use the blue box logo on any of our advertising, and extends a high level of confidence and credibility for new customers.”
He went on to explain that while the arrangement was mutually beneficial, entering into the partnership was no easy feat. “It does not come easy. There’s a long qualification process, both in terms of financial background and reputation, and compliance measures that must be met … And in return, they send you their preferred card members to assist with travel reservations.”
“It’s been a shot in the arm in terms of sales and branding,” Mascarenhas added.
But no matter how much the industry shifts or how much the agency grows, he said the most rewarding aspect of his job is “taking care of my customer’s needs, and seeing them come back to do business again. That’s a sign that they’re happy with you, and it’s a sign that we’re delivering on our services and our promises.”