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Anyone still use a travel agent for airline tickets?
Old 02-23-2011, 12:27 PM   #1
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Anyone still use a travel agent for airline tickets?

I haven't used an agent to buy airline tickets for years, now. Today I had lunch with a friend who frequently flies to Taiwan and he said his agent beats any on-line prices he can find by about $200.

Am I missing something, or is he just not an astute shopper?
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Old 02-23-2011, 01:37 PM   #2
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We always use a travel agent and have done so for more than 15 years.

Yes, I know you can look, book, and sometimes come up with some great deal that will beat the price of an agent (which costs nothing).

However, we've been booking trips longer than we've had the net so we're used to the "old way". Also, we've used the same local agency with only one change in personnel (one retired).

While anybody can question the price of a flight/hotel/car, etc, the "true value" comes into play when you have problems, such as we had last June on our trip to London along with a Baltic Cruise. As you know, there was this small problem with a volcano in Iceland, who decided to clear its throat.

We were concerned about the ship which was brand new and we were the second booked week. We heard that the tour had a chance of being cancelled since the ship was "out of place" due to being used for evac of British citizens stuck in Spain. They used the liner to transport a few thousand folks home, who could not get on a train nor use an airplane.

The agent called every day, with an update. He also checked on the status of our travel insurance to ensure we would be covered (due to an early policy purchase, which he recommended).

We made the trip over, and the ship was in Southampton in time. Two days before we were to return, he started calling us with updates as to the weather conditions, our flight status, and just to help put us at ease. He also arranged for pre-booking some out of the way hotel rooms in London "just in case".

This wasn’t the first time we've had impacts to travel, but it was just the latest.

Just to say that we will continue to book through him/his firm. And yes, when we do searches after he's booked the tickets, he usually gets a better price, along with booking the air separately from the tour (you can get better air prices, along with better seating and schedules; tours usually try to "shoehorn" you in to available seats/flights rather than what is best for your personal schedule).

Just to add that if you use a travel agent, they are not all the same. In the early years, we had some that did less than a sufficient j*b. Luckily, we found a couple of "diamonds".
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Old 02-23-2011, 01:41 PM   #3
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I used an agent to find our tour company in Mongolia as I wanted someone to help me figure out the best way to do a private trip. She didn't do our airfare or anything, but I'm very grateful to her for finding the awesome folks who took us on a trip of a lifetime.

I'm a DIY sort, but I'd use an agent again if I was going somewhere expensive and complicated like Mongolia.
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Old 02-23-2011, 02:50 PM   #4
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Am I missing something, or is he just not an astute shopper?
We've lived here long enough to know what airlines we'll end up on for certain trips, and we check the online prices before going six miles up the road to the travel agent... who always beats them.

For us it might be the military discount. (I don't think you can enter a code onto a website for that.) For your friend it might be that the agent does a lot of Taiwan charter business and gets a bulk rate.
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Old 02-23-2011, 03:24 PM   #5
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Travel agents can find competitive fares for international flights, especially non-US based carriers.
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Old 02-23-2011, 03:35 PM   #6
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How did you find your travel agents?
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Old 02-23-2011, 04:45 PM   #7
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Haven't used a travel agent since the late-90s. Even in the mid 90s when the Internet was younger I average out better online. Have yet to see a travel agent add a mid-sized car to a Las Vegas trip for $15/day!

With sites like Kayak returning results from 60+ sources, its hard to better that competitiveness. I get free trip services, trip insurance, baggage insurance, concierge services, collision coverage, burglary insurance, etc. through my credit card company (most people do but many don't know it).

Things are a little different with international, many of those agents are "consolidators", and that's how they often get those prices.
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Old 02-23-2011, 05:21 PM   #8
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YES

We always use our travel agent for any big trip, especially if overseas. The best advantage is that if there are problems, you have someone on your side to call and help get the problem solved. Saves you lots of time and headache.

Occasionally, they come up with special deals that you would not ordinarily know about.

We have used the same agent for the past 12-15 years.
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Old 02-23-2011, 05:37 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by travelover View Post
I haven't used an agent to buy airline tickets for years, now. Today I had lunch with a friend who frequently flies to Taiwan and he said his agent beats any on-line prices he can find by about $200.

Am I missing something, or is he just not an astute shopper?
I used a travel agent in Dec '10 because I hadn't been on a plane in ~15 years and wanted advice. Next time, don't know.
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Old 02-23-2011, 05:53 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by travelover View Post
I haven't used an agent to buy airline tickets for years, now. Today I had lunch with a friend who frequently flies to Taiwan and he said his agent beats any on-line prices he can find by about $200.

Am I missing something, or is he just not an astute shopper?
Agents can get better deals on international tickets thru consolidators. Especially on Business Class tickets. Most do not sell to retail customers but to agents and other consolidators.
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Old 02-23-2011, 06:36 PM   #11
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I haven't used a travel agent in fifteen years but if I was going on a complicated international trip I would definitely use one .
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Old 02-23-2011, 07:01 PM   #12
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It depends ...

If you use discount carriers such as Airtran or Jetblue, I think it's cheaper (or the same as) than the agents; However, if you fly oversea, it's cheaper to use an agent, especially if you stopover some place before your destination, it costs only $25 more to stop over.

To book an international flight, I still don't know how to add an extra location for $25 !? Say if I fly to Singapore, I would like to stop in Hong Kong. This is the problem for me because I don't know how to book a flight to Singapore but stop over in Hong Kong for 1 week.
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Old 02-24-2011, 12:18 AM   #13
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I would agree with the general responses here. A travel agent offers a service that becomes more valuable as the trip becomes potentially more complicated. For trips to Hawaii I will use one of the internet travel sites or Starwood in order to get the best price. For similar trips to Tahiti, I will use a travel agent in order to get the best service within my price parameters.
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Old 02-24-2011, 03:43 AM   #14
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Sometimes use travel agent to book flights especially on larger airlines (not budget airlines) - find that they can either find me a better price and also can get me a later confirmation/payment date esp when I can't finalise my plans yet.
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Old 02-24-2011, 05:42 AM   #15
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How did you find your travel agents?
In our case, it was just plain "luck". While we had used other agencies, they really were not outstanding.

We got to know this agency since it was used by my (former) company executives who traveled to Europe quite often, since a good deal of them were natives of that area (I wo*ked for a company in the U.S. owned by two different firms located in two different countries in Europe).

The company is no longer local (moved to another state, upon another merger) but the agency is. It started out under the American Express Travel logo but then was taken over by another larger local/regional agency.

My only suggestion is to try an agent/agency. If they don't meet your expected results, move on. It's not the agency, but the personel within the agency that makes a difference; same as any other company.
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Old 02-24-2011, 07:25 AM   #16
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Any of you folks that are willing to share the names of agents you've worked with, especially in Central and/or South America, I'd be very grateful! PM is fine. We are trying to book for Peru at the end of December and it is relatively complicated due to needing in-country flights as well.

Thanks for any info! Also welcome tips on Peru if you got 'em!
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Old 02-24-2011, 08:53 AM   #17
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In our case, it was just plain "luck". While we had used other agencies, they really were not outstanding.

We got to know this agency since it was used by my (former) company executives who traveled to Europe quite often, since a good deal of them were natives of that area (I wo*ked for a company in the U.S. owned by two different firms located in two different countries in Europe).

The company is no longer local (moved to another state, upon another merger) but the agency is. It started out under the American Express Travel logo but then was taken over by another larger local/regional agency.

My only suggestion is to try an agent/agency. If they don't meet your expected results, move on. It's not the agency, but the personel within the agency that makes a difference; same as any other company.
Thanks, Rescueme--we like Sarah in SC are also planning travel in late fall to Central America and I'm thinking a travel agent for this trip could be most helpful for many many reasons.

We used an agent for a cruise a few years ago and she was not at all helpful when the cruise was cancelled a week before the saildate because of ship problems, so have booked everything directly since then.
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Old 02-24-2011, 11:03 AM   #18
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Haven't used a travel agent for 10+ years and probably will never use them again.

Unlike others, I find that using a travel agent is actually an impediment when something goes wrong. If I book direct with an airline or a hotel chain, when the **** hits the fan they have to sort it out.

I had an experience where I used a TA to book a flight from UK to Oz return. When I needed to change the flight the airline had to go back to the TA who couldn't be bothered responding in a timely fashion. So for us, no TA is ever going to get another cent.
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Old 02-24-2011, 02:25 PM   #19
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Travel agents still can provide value where there is less competition, where most of the flight options are non-US carriers, where there is substantial non-US domestic travel or other local arrangements.

Most US carriers have reduced the need for intermediaries and offer their best prices directly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarah in SC View Post
Any of you folks that are willing to share the names of agents you've worked with, especially in Central and/or South America, I'd be very grateful! PM is fine. We are trying to book for Peru at the end of December and it is relatively complicated due to needing in-country flights as well.

Thanks for any info! Also welcome tips on Peru if you got 'em!
Peru? Nice. Its been a while for me, but it's still a good destination. Lima, Cuzco/Machu Picchu, or both? First visit? How's your spanish?
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Old 02-25-2011, 09:03 AM   #20
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Michael, this is the foolishness we've signed up to do in January:
Mototaxi Junket

The Mototaxi Junket has a new itinerary, which will start the madness in Puno, near Lake Titicaca, and end at Ayabaca, on the Ecuadoran border. I've described the distance as kinda like driving a moped from here to Texas on dirt roads, but only if the Andes Mountains and the Amazon basin were between SC and TX.

We've paid our money and signed up as Team Dixie Chickens. I'll be updating that thread as we get our website built (we will be raising money for Practical Action as part of our commitment). It is going to be awesome!

We are taking private Spanish lessons with a Peru-born tutor and I hope that will help as we traverse the Andes in a moped with a sofa on the back. On a lighter note, we did just update our wills last week.
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