Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Come on Tim - stop complaining and use a Travel Agent

Yesterday I spoke of the difficulties in booking a combined London and Tel Aviv trip and longed for the old direct access to Galileo.

Good comment was posted in response -

"Here's a wild concept, Try a Travel Agent Amazing when you delegate this sort of task how much more time one has to spend with family..."

It is a good point - but - I am. I use a great corporate travel agency - Fcm. Worked with them in my old job and very happy to bring them across to my new company. I find that as a heavy user business traveller I cannot get the service I need as an online only self booker. That might sound hypocritical given my rants about trying to book leisure travel offline but hear me out.

There a couple of things that a great corporate agent gives me that I can't do on my own online:
  • pricing - despite all the advances in loading of net fares and search and matching technology I have not found a site that gives me access to the cream of the negotiated business class fares, especially those that are more complicated that London or San Fran return and even more so now that I am in a very small company (6 people). This is certainly the case ex-Australia but I think is also true if I was based in Europe or the US;
  • panic in the middle of the night service - I have had half a dozen occasions in which I have had to find someone to speak to out of business hours to fix a big problem: stranded in Paris trying to get home on a Friday with Heathrow shut-down due to a fuel spill; re-routed to Brisbane due to fog; called on a Saturday morning by boss needing me to be in London by Monday morning etc....; and
  • billing, expensing and reporting - I know that the various corporate arms of Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz and more have great compliance and expensing mechanisms but none of those are available in Australia.
They are the good points. On the bad side, I find that the individual agents (while very responsive) are not as upto date in their knowledge of non-conventional routings. With each complicated booking combination I find that I have to send suggestions as to which routing to take and airline to use. So while the "panic in the middle of the night" service is fantastic from a good corporate agent, the "find the creative/crazy options" service is not. This is why I want Galileo/GDS access to search and explore. Leads to a product recommendation for corporate travel providers - self booking tools and nice but for complicated users like me I would love:
  • web access to itineraries that can be stored on multiple devices and feed into outlook;
  • search tool that looks at native GDS for scheduling options (no need to prove availability and pricing); and
  • hotel review information
Of course - if you want this level of service you have to be prepared to pay more for it in service fees...I am.

UPDATE - Anonymous commentator recommended that I save time and follow the advice in this link - oh that I could. (link fell off the comment page so am reposting here)


Anonymous said...

Mr BOOT, i think the time has arrived for your organisation to invest in your time a little better,


Anonymous said...

Ahhhhhhh the joys of Salmon a Fish finger budget............