Yes, that seems to be the case. I recently had a client come to me with some travel planning and they asked if it is ok to book air through a certain online booking engine that I will not give the name of. I advised them that we can get the same air fare pricing if not less with our in-house air desk. I told them I would compare with the online engine and what we can get on our side as a courtesy to them. What I found was astonishing to me and I believe all clients should understand what they are getting into when they book their own air through a third-party online booking engine.
As I went through this third-party website, I noticed a few items that I thought would be helpful to give guidance on in this focused attempt to help our clients understand the value we bring to them.
Below is the screen shot of a portion of the check-out page on the third party site. Take a close look at the image below of what you see if you are on this site to finalize your air booking. Does it make you feel like you are not getting the best service for the price you are paying? Guess what, you’re not. In fact, this site feels that you should have to pay more to get great service. Isn’t that supposed to be included? And I really like how they term customer service as support.
They will only support you with the standard package for up to a $250 cancellation fee per ticket. What happens when the cancellation fee is over that amount? There is no jumping the queue in the standard service, which this sounds like long hold times is the norm at this company. But you can pay for it and then they will jump for you. Notice the fine print that says most people pick the top package to get the best service. Now I understand this is their business model, but what the heck! When did it become ok to have to pay for first class service (or support in this model)? But I digress.
The long and short of it, you get the standard limited customer service for free. However, for $12.95 per person you can purchase faster customer service and for almost $40 per person you can get the fastest customer service when something goes wrong or needs addressed. Does this bother you? It did me. Why does a travel planning service engine charge a client for customer service? Isn’t this what the travel industry is, a service focused industry?
The other item I saw was the price drop assurance. Most clients do not know this but when you purchase air it is non-refundable for most fare classes, excluding first and business. But you can cancel or change your air within that 24 hrs. with our air desk for no change fee. If you are flying Southwest, they will price match if the price lowers. This site will charge you for that same service to the tune of $5.99 per person. Again, their policy and they are a business but not clear to the consumer.
Here is where I toot our horn…When you book with Carson Travel you will only ever be charged a fee if you are booking air independently and that is for ticketing or if you decide not to take your trip after we have been doing travel proposals for you. We will never charge a client for service. I think this is the biggest slap in the face to the consumer. They are telling you that you are not good enough for good service, and you should have to pay for it. If a change in flights occurs prior to your departure, we receive a notice and let you know. If that flight change is unacceptable, we work with the airline to get the best option for you or change to different flights, until a solution is found. No fee needed. If something happens during your travel, and you give a call to help in getting you from A to B, we do our best to work with the airline schedules to get you the best option possible, as quickly as possible. Sometimes this is in the middle of the night and believe me when I say that we worry about you! We want you to have a wonderful trip and when air goes badly, which we almost never can control, we know how that affects the over mood of your travel.
What if you are booking your entire trip with more than one third-party online booking engines. They don’t talk to one another. If you booked your air through one online booking engine and your cruise with another, then you need to reach out to both. You will spend countless hours on the phone with both and will be exhausted and frustrated. When you book everything through one company, again preferably Carson Travel, we have your entire trip planning in house and we will do all that for you. No extra fee. And if you need to file a travel insurance claim, which more than likely you glanced over on the online booking engine, we file that on your behalf. And guess what, no fee.
You spend a lot of work days getting to your wonderful getaway. At Carson Travel we value you as a client and we want you to have a wonderful travel planning experience and travel experience. Any company in my view that asks you to pay them in order to feel that value is not worth your dollar. Why do you trust a third-party online engine that is telling you that you must pay for better service when you should get that complimentary? Something to consider when booking your travel on you own.
Leigh Ann Arnholt