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Online booking with Airlines directly or with Online Retailers Vs booking with a full service physical Travel agent

When it comes to international Travel involving multiple airlines and multi segment bookings, it’s important to consider all the relevant factors not just the initial price. Terms and conditions, flexibility, refund-ability, change rules and ability to serve the known and unknown needs as it may arise later are all important considerations for both business and leisure travelers. In other words, SERVICE is as important as price and a tradeoff between the two is recommended. Lack of service and knowledge often results in much more hidden costs later on; which must be avoided. Also, service must be so affordable that total costs, initial and potential are minimized and travelers need for comfort and reliable journey are optimized.

Let us consider how the two booking options perform overall

Travel - a 22 point comparison

N Requirements/ Considerations With Agents Online/Airlines Conclusion / Result
1 Domestic and transborder only More booking fees Less or no fees Online better or same
2 Transborder – last minutes Better fare Higher fares Agents better generally
3 International-  Seat availability More choice Less choice Agents find more seats
4 International- Wait listing Yes, done often Not possible Cheaper, better routing
5 International air fares and taxes Same or lower Same or more Agents generally better
6 International- with stopovers Always better Higher fares Agents better always
7 International- change fees Free/ lower/ same Never free/ same Agents save big  $$
8 International- Refund fees Refundable/Lower Non ref./ More Agents save big $$
9 Int'L- change of  routes etc Possible/ Cheaper Not possible/More Agents often save $
10 Int'L- Business / first class Lot cheaper Higher fares Agents save huge $$
11 Int'L travel rules, local support Agents help,inform Little or no help Agents help businesses
12 Advance info on fare/ tax hikes Clients informed No advance info Agents save big $$
13 Holding space at fixed fares Offer time to decide Book now or lose Better decisions-agents
14 Finding seats on date changes Agents try harder Sorry- no seats Agents save big $$
15 Help on weekends/emergencies Accessible  Not accessible Agents help & save
16 Schedule changes More  options/Info Less options or no info Agents trouble shooters
17 Travel Insurance More options/ Cheaper Less options/ expensive Agents  can save  $
18 Hotels/ Car rentals Agents can book More options Online better for most
19 Vacation packages/cruises Agents same/cheaper Same or higher Agents better generally
20 Time saving/Expertise Relevant info only Information overdose Agents save time, $$
21 Payment options Cash,debit,cc,ck Credit card only Agents good for all
22 Jobs, business promotion jobs help economy Cause job losses Agents help businesses
23 Feedback and solutions Regular feedback No contact with hi-ups  Agents influence airline

Conclusion

Except for domestic and non last minute trans border bookings and hotels and car rentals and some last minute package deals, full service travel agents are best suited for international travelers both business and leisure. Travel agents are best experts in their field and save both time and money. Online bookings may be quick, funny and thrilling but not recommended from the standpoint of overall costs, flexibility and better decision making involving huge investments especially for businesses. Business and first class passengers and frequently flying economy clients or clients traveling with families deserve full service experts like the ones at Flight Express and its network of retail locations all across Alberta and BC or other full service experienced travel agents.

Point of view

BBC news reported recently that 42% of those who booked online in 2010 described their experience as ‘bad’ and wanted to return to traditional travel agents next time.

Remember, without an experienced travel agent, you are completely on your own or at the mercy of airline staff in situations caused by computer glitches, volcanoes, snow storm, airline and airport strikes, last minute flight cancellations / schedule changes, date changes, frequent fare and tax changes etc. Having an expert behind you and doing all the complicated work involved in international tickets saves you time and money.

As Online bookings became more popular, travel agents gradually lost the strong bargaining capacity with mighty airlines. Airlines know that passengers hardly know much and can't negotiate with them and therefore can now get away with all the hefty Fuel surcharges which are close to $400 per ticket now as opposed to $6 per ticket until 6 years ago. At the same time, airline services have been gradually reduced or costs increased. For example, Checked baggage allowance is reduced from 2pc to 1pc , Change fees have been increased from $150 to $250 and Cancellation penalties from $200 to $300.Even Business and First class tickets now have change and cancellation fees. The whole air travel experience has been less than perfect and declining for most travelers. Travel agents are the only technically qualified people able to negotiate with mighty airlines; they need public support to represent and negotiate better terms of trade for the traveling public.

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