Airline travel would seem pretty straightforward at first glance. We know we need a ticket from point A to point B, when we can fly, what airlines we prefer, what we would like that ticket to cost and when we are prepared to pay for it. The challenge comes from matching what we want to what is available. As airlines continue to cut available seating worldwide, choices are more limited than ever, making that perfect match more difficult. Adding in seemingly secret factors that consumers rarely come in contact have savvy buyers considering using the services of a travel agent again.
When it comes to finding anything even close to resembling a budget airline ticket for travel to holiday events, knowing when to buy, when to fly and what discounts and special offers are available is key.
“Many airlines compete with each other to have the lowest prices for their flights. Knowing when those ticket prices are the cheapest is a great way to save money,” says Mathias Friess, CEO of webjet.com in a Wall Street Journal report, “10 Tips for Saving on Holiday Travel Right Now.”
Common tips for booking airline tickets for holiday travel usually start with not waiting too long to buy. Know that prices commonly rise as holidays approach, so book as far in advance as possible. Looking for website codes and discounts is a good idea and not relying on just one website is better.
That is if we go it on our own to buy air.
A growing number of travelers are using a travel agent for airline tickets. Not just any travel agent, but one that specializes in airfare. Expect to pay a fee of $20 to $50 per ticket on top of the ticket price, a charge that can be easily worth every penny if a problem comes up en-route.
But before you begin to develop what will hopefully be a lifelong business relationship with a travel agent or agency, ask one very important question:
“If there is a problem with my flight before travel begins or when travel is in progress, will you make alternate arrangements for me?“
The answer needs to be “yes.”
Rather than stand in line at the customer service counter of any given airline along with 200 other people off the flight that was just canceled, your travel agent may be the go-to person to take care of that while you relax in a lounge area.
Next flight out not until the next day? That same travel agent can arrange a hotel room for you as well as information on getting there and back to the airport, even where to have dinner.
Some other situations that beg us to use a qualified travel agent include international travel (especially for the first time), flying on an unfamiliar airline and traveling with special needs flyers like the handicapped, children or the elderly. Simply a busy personal schedule that does not allow hours surfing around for fares is also a common reason to use a travel agent.
Surely, using a travel agent is not for everyone. Travelers flying common routes to major destinations, those with flexible travel plans or passengers flying direct without connections will naturally fare better than others. Still, having a travel agent in your back pocket when things go wrong can be well worth the time it takes to find one.
[Photo credit: Flickr user kalleboo]