Flawed processes for connecting flights show disregard for our clients, says says Thompson Travel’s Sharon Thompson
These last few years have been a bit of an eye-opener in terms of airlines. There are some airlines I have contemplated removing from our supplier list for good due to poor service, and others that I’m considering axing even though we have had excellent sales with them for 30 years.
I am still fighting an ongoing battle with one airline for compensation for a group of travellers who were left stranded last year due to the carrier’s fault.
There are some airlines I have contemplated removing from our supplier list for good due to poor service
There is a limit to what we can do when we book a flight. We book it, ticket it, pay for it and supply the ticket to our client. We are all incredibly busy. Trying to keep up with today’s demands can be challenging, so it’s particularly frustrating to have to wait ages to be recompensed for old issues.
Lack of apology
On two recent occasions with the same airline, we booked connecting flights where interline agreements supposedly existed, only to find the booking didn’t process. Our clients then spent five hours in the airport going back and forth between the two airlines trying to find a resolution. What made the situation worse was that one of these occasions was a surprise 70th birthday for a client!
The outcome and resolution from the airline in question was £77 compensation for the phone calls that were required. They didn’t show any regard for the problem and were far from apologetic. We were told the issue was due to a “technical error”. Can you imagine our frustration when we then had the same problem with the same airline on a different route two weeks later – and with the same excuse?
Can you imagine our frustration when we then had the same problem with the same airline on a different route two weeks later – and with the same excuse?
We have learnt a valuable lesson: if your clients can’t check in within the timeframe offered prior to travel, call up and check they actually have a flight! If they arrive at the airport and are told they can’t check in all the way through to their destination, alarm bells should ring. We even had a situation where our client’s luggage was checked right through but the clients weren’t.
It is well known that airlines gain extra revenue from allowing clients to pre-book seats outside the 24 or 48-hour window of online check-in, but the price to do this is getting ridiculous. A huge hike in long-haul fares is already a hard sell before you add this on top, and it can be a hefty sum for a family of four.
Not fit for purpose
In recent months, we’ve found that the benefit of booking online can outweigh using our GDS – not because of a better fare, but because of the ability to add simple things to a booking. Many airlines don’t have seat maps on the GDS, and tickets have to be reissued after certain additions. There should be an equal playing field for all of us.
Something is getting lost in translation which, sadly, is to the detriment of our clients and their much-valued holidays
As our whole industry fights to recover and recoup losses, we agents are putting in a shift to make this happen. We all have to cope with cancelled flights, strikes and everything else, but the actual booking process should be fit for purpose. It is clear that while airlines are expanding their destinations, some have flawed processes for connecting flights. Something is getting lost in translation which, sadly, is to the detriment of our clients and their much-valued holidays.
Good airlines, take a bow
On a more positive note, I must give a shout-out to some airlines which have been excellent, in terms of the booking process, group requests and ancillary products. Air Canada is our absolute winner of the year so far. We have had many clients travel with them and the feedback is always positive. Also worthy of a mention is Emirates, who I have travelled with this year. While their prices could be a bit cheaper, they deliver the most important aspects of flying very well. And finally, I must highlight Turkish Airlines, which we have used for many years. With the amount of connectivity they provide from Dublin, they offer excellent opportunities for us to grow business.
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