Over the past few years most of us have taken to booking and managing our own travel. With flight comparison sites like SkyScanner, HipMunk, Kayak and many many more, finding flights and booking them has become really easy. Most of the airlines have their own mobile apps which also let you book and manage your flights directly from your mobile phone.
So why would anyone use a travel agent these days?
If you don’t travel that often you probably wouldn’t. Using a travel agent will cost you more than self-booking, as they’ll usually charge you some kind of per booking fee, while booking via the airline’s site directly won’t.
However if you travel a lot or have complex travel itineraries self-booking can be a pain. Earlier this year, for example, I had a very long and complicated trip. While I might have been able to book it myself it would have taken me a ridiculous amount of time to get all the flights and connections. Using a professional travel agent that specialises in business travel for that kind of trip makes a lot of sense. They were able to find the right combination of flights with different airlines to get me where I needed to be without too much pain.
The other thing with using a travel agent is the “hassle factor”. If you fly in Europe you’ll probably be aware of the ongoing industrial relations disputes with several of the carriers. Both Air France and Lufthansa have had multiple strikes over the last couple of years which have disrupted travel not only for those on their flights, but also had a knock-on impact on others. And if you fly in the US you’ll be well aware of the issues that a lot of carriers there have been having between computer glitches, bad weather and various other things. If you self-book and there’s an issue with your flights you’re not only at the mercy of the airlines, but you also can end up wasting a lot of time trying to get refunds.
About two years ago 3 of us were at an event in Germany. The day before we were meant to fly home the airline went on strike, effectively stranding us. A quick phone call to our travel agent and the issue was resolved. They rebooked us on another airline and then looked after resolving the refund issues with the airline that had gone on strike.
A good, reliable travel agent is worth their weight in gold!