What We Did for Love: Tales of Travel Agents Who Went the Extra Mile

by Cheryl Rosen
What We Did for Love: Tales of Travel Agents Who Went the Extra Mile

Travel Agent Appreciation Day is celebrated annually on the first Wednesday in May. Photo: Shutterstock.com.

Ask travel advisors for a story about going above and beyond the call of duty and each will have 10 — or maybe 50 — to share.

They have saved clients stuck in faraway places or in harm’s way; arranged medical care for those who have been hurt; created memories to last a lifetime. In honor of Travel Advisor Appreciation Day, we bring you some tales of rescue and romance that came care of a travel advisor — and say we appreciate all you do for your customers!

It was just last week that Chuck Flagg’s clients, caught in storms in DFW, were about to miss their flight to Tahiti for a 14-night cruise to celebrate their 45th anniversary. And their luggage was lost. “I worked a solution that was not ideal, but they would not lose their entire trip,” Flagg said. “They flew to Burbank the next day, took a car to LAX, flew to Tahiti for three nights, then flew to a small island in the Marquesas where they spent one night before boarding the ship.”

Next, the luggage issue. “Imagine packing for 14 days and having to go home without your bags and pack for a 13-day trip,” Flagg said. “I tracked their bags and found them at LAX, so they still made it to the flight to Tahiti. I am finally going to sleep well tonight knowing my clients have finally been able to make lemonade out of lemons and continue their journey.”

Sometimes it’s a labor of love; sometimes the support is emotional in nature. Dillon Guyer’s customer was sending his ailing and elderly dad on one last river cruise. “He had one dream, and one dream truly … He was in the Royal Netherlands Navy, and wanted to sail out of the North Sea canal one more time on the bridge of a ship, and share that experience with his now wife,” Guyer said. “Knowing Viking has an open bridge policy, we have arranged a bottle of Moet, finger sandwiches and canapés to be delivered to the bridge, so he can celebrate with the officers on board the bridge. I have done a lot for weddings and celebrations. But this? Some of the most cherished ‘father-son’ love I have seen in six years as an agent. It’s worth every hour I have worked on this trip!”

On a fam trip at Hard Rock Show Stopper at Unico, Yvette Shaqir had a client coincidentally staying at Seaside Suites, way down the beach, who suddenly became “incredibly worried about her return trip. I thought about how to best help. I gathered a few close friend agents and the Lomas rep from around the pool at Unico and we walked all the way down to Seaside Suites, knocked on her door, invited her down to the bar and resolved every issue she was obsessing over. She is now a two-three-times-a-year client and always jokes about how truly loved she feels by her travel agent.”

Mikaela Walker had a soccer-loving client ask for a photo shoot and soccer lesson on the beach in Brazil. “Neither of these things are typical requests, but I scoured the Internet until I found some companies that might help, called them with my rusty Portuguese, I was able to set it up,” she said. “I didn't make any commission on those items, but he is a good client and books pretty big trips every year.”

And Dawn Gonzalez once fronted a single mom the balance of her trip when she didn’t have the money.

One of Lorraine Simpson’s pickiest brides came back from her site inspection at Azul Beach “with a shopping list of demands,” from specific room numbers to meal times. But “the biggest demand was to put air conditioning in the chapel at Maroma Beach. I’m sure it wasn’t just for me and it was just that the timing was right, but Karisma granted my request and put in air conditioning.”

Ah, the proposals
Of course, some of the best memories are the proposals. Jeni Chaffer handled a surprise trip for a couple, which then became a surprise engagement. “The wife was given a packing list and told the days to get off work; they were picked up in a limo and she did not know where they were headed. At the resort, I arranged for the staff to pretend they were celebrating a belated birthday, with flowers, massages, etc. A romantic private dinner was held on the beach, where he proposed. A photographer was on hand to capture the moment. When they returned to their room, candles, a bubble bath, more champagne and dessert was waiting. It would not have been possible to pull off either event without the help of staff. Relationships truly do make the difference.”

But sometimes they are not so nice. Nicole Montean-Yaworsky once had a client call for help when her boyfriend beat her up on their resort vacation. She immediately moved her to another resort and booked her on the first flight home the next day, then had an Air Canada rep make sure that he was not on the same flight and that she got on the plane safely.

Passport tales top the list
Many of the stories we heard involved lost or forgotten or expiring passports. When the mom of a family of four was denied boarding because her passport was about to expire, Lynn Guy Tyger helped her get a new expedited overnight, rebooked her flight for the next day, and paid for a day room for her at Sofitel LHR during the long layover that was now involved. “And yes, that was the last time I didn’t not require a passport copy from a client,” Tyger said.

When Suzanne Haire’s college student customer left her passport and $1,200 in cash (that Haire specifically told her not to carry around) in a London taxi, Haire tracked down the driver and had him drive to her hotel at 2 a.m. to return it. Said Haire, “She is still one of my best clients - oh, and she listens to my advice now about what to do and how to do it!”

Kenneth Smith once got up at 3 a.m. to drive a client from New York to a passport office in Connecticut that did not require an appointment, and then straight to JFK to board her plane to Austria. Mara Hargarther drove six hours to bring a client her passport. And back in the day when you could travel to Mexico with just a birth certificate, Dedra Shahan had the county clerk meet her on a Saturday morning with copies and drove two hours to DFW to hand it over.

When storms crash your wedding or threaten your cruise
Denise Hangsleben once had a destination wedding heading for Jamaica when a tornado ripped through St. Louis airport, their departure point. She stayed up all night finding alternate routes for the couple and then drove them to an airport a few hours away.

And after a hurricane wiped out Cancun, Linda Schreiber managed to get her bride, the only one who was already on site, to safety and eventually home, and rebooked the 70 other guests for the following month.

Airline issues probably top the list — and come around the clock.

Sharon Emerson was on cruise ship in the middle of the ocean, in the middle of the night, when she got a message that Olympic Airlines was going on strike. She got her clients out of bed and on the last flight out of Halkidiki in time to make their Mediterranean cruise from Athens.

When her client lost her passport and wallet in Rome, Linda Scott “put her extra expenses on my agency card and had her pay me back when she got home. Took a leap of faith and she did send me a check.”

When the first leg of a flight was delayed, jeopardizing her customers’ arrival in time for a Europe cruise, and America Airlines would not answer the phone, Julie Spitzberger Bartz drove an hour to the airport to tell them in person that her clients were driving to Chicago to catch the international leg so they wouldn’t be deemed a no-show.

After Hurricanes Irma and Maria closed Tampa airport, Tracy Whipple “spent the next several days working with hotels and airlines across the country” to get her clients home. “Connecting flights were being canceled as they were boarding the first flight. We booked several hotels and car rentals just to get them as close to home as quickly as possible. It took three days, but we finally got them home, even before the airport reopened.”

For another client who was denied boarding on her fight because she had food poisoning, “we needed to get her to a doctor for clearance and rebook her flights. She didn't have email access, only Messenger and no phone access either. I helped find a doctor and coordinate with the insurance company to get the documentation needed and rebook her on a new flight home, only about 15 hours later than the original flight.”

When her client with three crying kids under the age of eight called saying they were denied boarding for their trip to Disney World, Camille Yeager got on the phone with the airport gate agent and demanded they be allowed on the plane. Turns out the gate agent not only tried to bump them, but also said it was due to their travel agent’s error. “I said you will NEVER tell another person that the agent was responsible simply because you oversold the space!!! And you will give them each a $250 VOUCHER TO FLY YOUR MISERABLE AIRLINE. And she did.”

Emer Coughlin had six clients stuck in Santorini for three extra days because of Hurricane Zorba. He got them rebooked into another hotel for two extra nights, then on an emergency ferry to Athens, rearranged flights to Paris, changed transfers. “I was on the phone with the clients at 3 a.m. every morning, advising and keeping them calm. It was an ordeal, and they were very grateful to have had us in their corner.”

And Ann-Marie Gaudet’s husband has actually worked a shift for his fellow firefighters when they were short a day on vacation time, so they could still go on their cruise.

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