23 Mar With Thousands of Canceled Flights This Week, Winter Storm Toby Demonstrates the Value of Travel Agents
Scores of travelers caught in this week’s severe weather were greatly assisted by a Travel Leaders Network travel agent
New York (March 23, 2018) — For a large number of travelers who were impacted by this week’s late season severe winter weather, which resulted in more than 5,000 flight cancellations, the experience was substantially eased through the assistance of a travel agent. With flight disruptions spanning multiple states, a number of Travel Leaders Network agents shared stories from recent travel challenges, along with some advice.
Philip Overton, a Travel Leaders travel agent based in Dallas, shared the story of a client who was traveling from Tel Aviv to Jacksonville, Fla., by way of JFK airport in New York. Courtesy of Winter Storm Toby, the JFK to Jacksonville leg was canceled. “He was already on the plane from Tel Aviv, set to land in New York at 5 a.m. when we realized his next flight was canceled,” said Overton. “While he was still in the air, we found him a non-stop flight leaving the next day. We booked it and then called his son who contacted a family member in New York City who could put his father up for the night. When our client started receiving text messages while still on the plane from Tel Aviv, we explained the situation to him.” Overton’s team also stayed in contact with the airline. In the end, the airline was able to get his client on a same-day flight to Orlando. “His wife picked him up by car, and they drove from there to Jacksonville. The next morning, he contacted us to express his tremendous appreciation,” said Overton.
Anne Jasper with Travel Leaders Destinations Unlimited in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, relayed the story of a long-standing corporate client who had booked flight arrangements on his own using mileage, but requested assistance from the agency once the weather affected his plans. “He is a very good customer and called us for help as he was trying to find a way to get to White Plains, N.Y. We determined that flights were operating into Stewart International Airport, which is about an hour away from where he needed to be and rebooked him. He made it and arrived into the alternate airport without issue.” Jasper added that she advises her clients to feel free to check with them at any time to see if the airlines have issued a special waiver code that allows them to process refunds or rebook flights without penalty. “We understand that many travelers were impacted by this storm and availability can be very limited during the rebooking process. If they have to travel, flexibility is key, as we will check alternate airports and incorporate train travel for East Coast clients, when necessary.”
Dana Young, a Travel Leaders agent in Dundee, Ill., said that when Chicago was hit recently with about eight inches of snow, it was during the Chicago Auto Show. The agency had booked travel arrangements for a number of individuals to attend. One particular client’s return flight was canceled and Young needed to get him an extra hotel night. The hotel was officially sold out but Young, who always stays on site during the Auto Show, was able to use her well-established relationship with the property to get the extra room night for her client.
Lee McCarthy with MAD Travel / Travel Leaders in Naples, Fla., described how his agency proactively reviews travel plans among his clients when severe weather is approaching. “As soon as we receive notifications of impending weather or other types of issues, we have our systems check for all affected or possibly affected travelers and then notify each of them of their options and rebook them to other dates or times and stand ready to assist if they decide to go with their original plans.”
David Fishman, of Travel Leaders Cadillac Travel in the Detroit area, advises that whether it is a weather delay or some other unforeseen circumstance affecting a traveler’s plans, it is easier and more convenient to let your travel advisor take care of changing your itinerary. “If you reach out directly to an airline during times like one of the Nor’easters, you are going to be on hold for two or three hours trying to get your flight changed. And if you booked online, some of those places you can’t even call, you can only email. If you work with a travel professional, however, you leave that work to us and we will get it done quickly.”
“Our travel agents are trained to monitor weather conditions, and other types of potential disruptions, and they proactively determine solutions to minimize the impact on their clients’ travel plans,” said Travel Leaders Network President Roger E. Block, CTC. “As result, their clients can rely on them to reroute or reschedule them, as needed, when there is an unpredictable Nor’easter winter storm or other types of event that impacts travel. The value of our travel agents is recognized even more clearly when they have rebooked you through to your final destination without you feeling the impact, while others who booked on their own are still scrambling for that last seat on the next flight out.”
Travel Leaders Network, the largest seller of luxury travel, cruises, river cruises and tours in the travel agency industry, has more than 40,000 travel agents across North America waiting to assist customers. Travelers can find an agent on TravelLeaders.com and also learn more about destinations and travel tips at iTravelBetter.com.