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7 problems with using a travel agent and the solutions!

If you’re considering booking a cruise or a holiday with a travel agent and have done any research on the web, you’ve probably encountered some discussion of the problems associated with using a travel advisor.

The purpose of this article is to address, with full disclosure, seven of the most common holiday problems associated with using an independent travel agent…but we won’t leave you there. We’ll also discuss the causes of these problems and how you, the client, can avoid them. But in the spirit of full disclosure, we have to point out that these “problems” are both very rare and often completely avoidable.

What if the travel agent makes a mistake?

Everyone is human. And there is a lot of opportunity for errors to be made. I’ve mistyped dates of birth and missed flight changes among others. But remember “it’s not how we make mistakes but how we correct them that defines us”. At Strawberry Holidays we have a ton of points in the service where we can check for errors.
We create a booking control form during our first call. We then check that at the quote stage, and feedback. Then before we book if possible we’ll send you a final quote before confirmation for you to check the details. Then at confirmation we’ll re-check all details. And finally again at balance payment AND ticket administration.

Your booking authorisation form is there for you to check all the information is correct and you’re happy to proceed.

If something does go wrong and it’s my fault, I’ll always correct for free and if the mistake is big or persistently causing issues (Recently a client had to get in touch 4 times because a correction hadn’t been put through all elements of the booking) then of course a gesture of goodwill will be made.

And if the mistake is REALLY big, that’s why we have to have Liability Insurance. We’re literally insured against making mistakes.

🍓TOP TIP🍓 Look for an experienced agent and you’re less likely to see mistakes with your booking. We’re not immune but we know the most common mistakes and who to avoid them.

What if your travel agent goes bust?

This is one of the most common questions about travel agent problems. A lot of people, especially in today’s landscape, want to know how the “system works” and what happens to them if their travel agent goes bust.

And the answer is it depends on how your agent is set up.

ABTA Travel Agents for example will cancel the holiday and you will make a claim through ABTA for your refund.

Trust Association Travel Agents (like Strawberry Holidays) work slightly differently. Your money goes into trust, it’s completely ring-fenced from the daily finances of the business. And is managed by a third party. Your money can only be returned to you or your tour operator, cruise line or airline etc get paid and your holiday can still go ahead.

Your travel agent is an intermediary of your holiday and so unless they are the tour operator as well there are plenty of steps you can take to either take the holiday as planned or not.

The solution to travel agent problems like this is to make sure you know what happens if your travel agent were to close their doors.

Which travel agent is the best?

Oh my gosh I love this question! This is like asking which hairdresser is best? I mean there are so many factors to consider! Location, opening times, hair type, services you want (I mean those extensions are amazing but do they fit them?!) I think you get the idea.

So let’s drill this down one further. If you’re shopping for a travel agent there’s a good reason for that. And if you want to know who the best is you’ve clearly got a taste for the finer things in life, or this is a special trip that you don’t want to get wrong? Am I right?

And just like with hairdressers, two people with two different face shapes, hair types and magazine cuttings (okay showing my age – Insta pic or Pinterest board) of inspo could rate the same ultra-qualified hairdresser in two VERY different ways. You should find an agent that works for you, with you, keeps your best interests in mind and you get along with. You’re going to trust them with the biggest purchase you’ll make all year. You need to know, like and trust them. You also need to know exactly what you’re going to get. Check our pricing information to see what’s included with Strawberry Holidays. 

So it’s not which is the best travel agent. It should be: which is the best travel agent for me?

Many people love Supercuts, they do the job and are great value for money. They could be compared to the high street TUI and Hayes stores. They’ll offer you just what you want, a fly and flop cookie cut holiday in the same vein.

But if you want extensions, balayage, someone that knows afro-hairdressing  or even can shave elaborate designs into your scalp, you should find a specialist. You look for reviews, testimonials and maybe even have a consultation before committing. This is where an independent travel agent, consultant, advisor is worth their weight in gold. Find a travel agent near you.
Want to know the best travel agents in Lancashire? Read more.

Can a travel agent cancel my holiday? 

Only in exceptional circumstances would a travel agent cancel your holiday. Some reasons they may do this is if your holiday has been oversold, or the operator is in administration or there is a cancellation to one element of your holiday. In these circumstances, it’s out of your control. But you should know your rights, you’re entitled to a full refund, credit note or to transfer the holiday with no admin fees (there may be additional fares to pay).

Another reason is if you’ve not paid the balance of the holiday in time. You are responsible for paying the balance you’re contractually obligated to pay. If you can’t meet your commitment, let the agent know as soon as possible to make sure no-one loses out.

Can a travel agent refuse to refund?

The last few years have really shown the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to refunds and treating a customer fairly. Dragging their feet with refunds and not meeting customer expectations for speedy payments. One of my favourite clients waited for a refund for over 9 months in the Pandemic! This is completely unacceptable and one of the travel agent problems. 

If the tour operator or travel agent hasn’t got their money back from the airlines or other suppliers, they may tell you that they can’t refund you. BUT unfortunately for them, they are legally obliged, under the terms of the Package Travel Regulations, to refund their customers regardless of whether they’ve secured a refund from the suppliers.

If the company doesn’t cancel your booking, and you’re making a personal decision not to travel  you can ask for a refund but you don’t have an automatic right to one.

My advice here is to check with your agent who they’re working with, who your booking is being fulfilled with and ask about their reputation for refunds. A reputable agent will be using a select few that put customers before their bottom line. 

Can a travel agent keep my deposit?

Yes. A deposit is a sum payable as a first instalment on the purchase of something or as a pledge for a contract, the balance being payable later. They start as low as £1 and it should be explained that they’re always non-refundable. BUT they could be transferable depending on the operator. Again check the booking conditions with your operator beforehand.

Also a super low deposit is a hook to book and you will likely be asked for a second deposit a few weeks later. If you cancel when it’s £1 don’t expect to only pay that, you may be liable for the remaining deposit amount – always read the small print!

Can a travel agent charge me extra after the holiday is confirmed?

Charging a client more after the holiday is confirmed is really rare. There are instances where it happens if the airfare has risen dramatically between booking and departure. We mainly see it happen when clients book out of date range. This means they’re booking so far in advance that the actual prices for the airline or hotel aren’t available and the price is estimated. When the prices are released, if elements have increased by as little as 5% but as much as 10% that extra will be added to your holiday.

You can avoid this by using an operator that guarantees the fare. There are some out there that will do this and some will guarantee prices on selected routes, for example Orlando for Walt Disney World. Ask your travel agent when discussing your far away trip if this is a possibility. 

Who to complain to about a travel agent? / Where to complain about a travel agent?

Contacting your travel agency about travel agent problems is an option for you. You can let them know of your grievance and compensation. You may send a Legal Notice to them as well. In case of not getting any positive and satisfying response, it is advisable to file a Complaint against the Travel Agency in the Consumer Court.

If they’re ABTA members you can certainly complain to them too. Or their “ host” agencies, for example Travel Counsellors or Not Just Travel management. In Strawberry Holidays’ case I hope you would come to me, but if not you could get in touch with The Travel Network Group, TTNG.

Speak to a Holiday expert

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We hope you’ve found this helpful and wish you well on your journey to find the perfect holiday for your family.

If you’d like to learn more about our holidays and what sets us apart as a travel agent, take a look through our blog and website. 

Want to know how much your holiday might cost might cost with a travel agent? Try out our pricing guide today.

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