Recently, I had a conversation with a client regarding the limitations of how much a travel agent can get involved in changing a flight during a client’s travel. Without getting too technical I am going to provide easy answers and scenarios that will help clear up some confusion.
Scenario 1 – Scheduled flight has been canceled
- This situation is where a travel agent can assist the most. I can contact the airline on behalf of the client and make necessary changes to the schedule. If the client is at the airport, it can be faster for the client to approach the airline customer service desk and get options.
Scenario 2 – Scheduled flight has not been canceled and client wants to change to another flight
- In this scenario the client is flying internationally and is returning from St. Lucia. During their initial booking they had to book a late connecting flight because the earlier connecting flight was not available. They are now returning back to the US. They land, de-plane, get through customs and security, and are going to be sitting around the airport for 3 hours. They decide to check the status of the earlier connecting flight. At this point, this is the client’s decision to change their flight. The client sends me a message asking if I can help change their schedule.
No, I cannot assist with this. Once a client is traveling the flight reservation is under airline control. The only way a travel agent can make changes is if the airline cancels a flight. The airlines keep tight control on their reservations for many reasons: keeps a flight from being extremely overbooked, keeps a plane from flying with few passengers, keeps airline ticket prices down, lowers the risk of lost luggage, etc. Imagine if a travel agent could go into any client’s reservation and make changes on a whim. It would be pandemonium.
My advice to the client would be to go to the airline customer service desk and ask if there are open seats available on the earlier connecting flight. Or, the client could fly standby if that plane is accepting those reservations.
Scenario 3 – Scheduled flight has been delayed, and delayed, and delayed, and…..
- This situation sucks. The client is anxiously waiting to leave and for one reason, or for several reasons, the flight is continuously delayed. The client asks me what I can do. Unfortunately, nothing for that moment. The airline still controls that flight reservation, so until that flight is canceled, the client is at the mercy of the airline. However, in the meantime, if this delay is going to effect their connecting flight either the travel agent can make contact with the airline, or the client can talk to the gate agent about making changes in their connecting flight.
Flying can be both a blessing and a curse! At Elite Escapes, we always recommend getting a good travel insurance policy before travel. The client should read the policy and become familiar with it in case there is a potential for a claim to be filed due to trip delay, trip interruption, lost luggage, etc. Legally, travel agents cannot guarantee that a claim will be covered and a refund will be given. I have had several clients over the year ask, “This should be covered right? We have been traveling all day!!” My response is always, “I can’t say, but you have the phone number of your travel insurance policy in your documents. Definitely you should call.”
Most of all, I want clients to feel supported. I may not be able to wave my magic wand and make changes on a whim, but I am there for questions, clarification, and a sounding board when the captain tells you that there is a maintenance problem resulting in a delay.