The Travel Consultant Vs. The Online Booking Engine

There is much being said in the media about both travel consultants and on-line booking engines.   American Airlines is confronting Expedia and Orbitz.  Why?  In general, the cost to run an airline: fuel planes, rent gate space and pay personnel are more than the revenue. The airlines are constantly finding ways to reduce cost and raise revenue. Airlines pay for reservations made on a web site other than their own. A round trip flight from Boston thru Chicago to San Francisco cost the airlines more than $10, which becomes a significant percentage of their bottom line. It is primarily the leisure client that uses these web sites, because they think they are saving time and money. Of course neither is true.

In March, I begin my 25th year as a travel consultant.  So I have lots to say on these subjects.  I can understand a traveler going to when they know they want to fly to Chicago on American.  It might be fast and not charge service fees.  But let me say, if you are in Chicago and there is a snow storm, can not help you very much. Instead, when you call me or my after hours service, I can immediately assist in finding the next available flights and a place to sleep.  It is like getting in the front of the line at the counter.  All the people in front of you are not going to get all the open seats.  You are first.   I have more clients for life because of my assistance while traveling than for any other reason.

And it is not like I am in the airline ticket business.   I make no money on a domestic airline ticket.  What is true is I spend much of my time finding the best flights for your needs; time, price, carrier and airports.  Recently a client called me for assistance. His company insists corporate travel be booked through a search engine, not a human.  He was looking for a reasonably priced ticket to San Francisco. It never occurred to him to go to Oakland or San Jose.  But it did to me. And that is why his company needs a travel consultant.

If time is your most important priority, within seconds I can go from one carrier to another, from one date or airport to another. I work with a program called Sabre. It is not a Windows or menu driven program. It is a blank screen and I type in a specific “travel agent language” and get the answer faster than you can say it.   Flights, hotels, and cars around the world, 11 months in advance, are at my immediate disposal.  There are certain times I call directly: cruises and tours, and often hotels. That way, I can try to get you a special upgrade. And that is why you use a travel agent – I spend my time, not yours.

I know more and more people are going online to learn about a travel destinations.  I encourage individual research.  But when it comes to making the reservations a professional is always good to have on your side.

About alwaysharriet

With thirty years experience in corporate and leisure travel consulting, Harriet Ahouse has traveled extensively throughout the Caribbean and worldwide. An avid scuba diver, she understands the requirements of travelers both on land and in the water. On the European scene she has offered traditional and personalized travel itineraries throughout the continent--Italy, France, and England are some of her favorites. As a Virtuoso Agent, she also has extensive resources to enhance her expertise in designing individual destination travel itineraries--and honeymoons--worldwide!
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