5 Things That Go Wrong When You Let Clients Book Their Own Airfare

The ease of online flight-booking services makes consulting the internet a client go-to if they are in charge of making their own flight arrangements. As a travel agent whose career thrives from commission, including airfare booking in your services not only gives you a higher profit platform, but also ensures clients don’t fall victim to things that can go wrong when scheduling their own flights.

How an Airline Consolidator Helps

If booking airfare complicates your “to do” list, consider working with an airline consolidator. Airline consolidators have access to net fares that aren’t available to the public, thanks to their partnerships with numerous airlines. Travel agents can obtain these low fares through a consolidator at a discounted price—sometimes 45-60% off published fares! The extra savings give agents the opportunity to earn more commission and still offer clients a better deal on airfare than what they would have found online.

5 Things That Go Wrong When Clients Book Their Own Airfare

Agent Loses Commission on Air Travel

Losing commission on air travel is a harsh blow to your overall earnings. The low-cost airfare you are able to get as a travel agent puts you in the position to earn more commission by quoting clients a ticket price higher than what you paid. At the same time, you have room to keep that quote below published fares so you look like a money-saving guru to your clients.

 Including airfare services gives agents a bigger platform to earn commission.

Pre-internet days had airfare serving as an agent’s only source of commission, and agents made a healthy profit from selling tickets alone (and that’s before net fares were available). Top that with the additional commission you can earn today from booking hotels, car rentals, river cruises and land tours, and you could secure a great sale while delivering clients the full package.

Agent Risks Being Perceived as “Incomplete”

Clients hire travel agents to bear the weight of trip planning and rely on their expertise when it comes to details, in the air or on land. Leaving them responsible for their own airfare while you are already managing hotel stays, car rentals, and tours puts a notable gap in your service. Or consider a client seeking an air-only referral; as you make those arrangements, you have the opportunity to increase your commission by recommending side trips en route to or at their destination.

Travel agents who exclude airfare from their services also miss out on receiving business from the VFR (visiting friends and relatives) market. VFR travelers are not packing their journey with suggested tours and hotel stays since they are, by definition, visiting family members. Their needs rest highly on air travel, which you could provide at a discounted rate. Including airfare booking in your services also exposes your business to obtaining larger groups, which means more commission. VFR clients appreciate an agent who can ensure their group is accommodated, and service like that is bound to receive plenty of positive referrals.

Client Error: Client May Mistakenly Book the Wrong Date and Time

Companies have tried to give consumers more say in their travel by designing sites that let them book with a few simple clicks (hoping they glaze over fine print and conditions), but a travel agent ensures that human or website errors do not derail a dream vacation.

When booking online, the traveler is faced with tons of airline and flight options: departure times, arrival times, layovers, connecting flights, etc. To you, the expert, it is easy to comprehend, but many travelers have accidentally booked the wrong date and time for their flight. Not to mention the scads of misleading airport names that have led clients to believe their destination airport is within a major city when, in fact, it is hours away (Paris-Vatry Airport is 93 miles from France’s capital city). When you are in charge of flight arrangements, your industry expertise and experience prevents clients from making those critical mistakes.

Managing clients’ air travel arrangements prevents them from making critical errors like booking the wrong date and time.

Customer Gets Higher Fare, Less to Spend on Land Packages

Clients plan a budget for their trip that includes plane tickets, hotel and transportation costs, land activities and, of course, paying the travel agent. Airfare takes up a good chunk of the budget and the remainder is divided among the trip’s lodging and activities. The more clients end up paying for airfare, the less their budget allows for additional land excursions that you may rely on for commission; like tours, river cruises, and quality hotels.

Consider this example: The lowest published fare from LAX to Frankfurt, Germany is around $2,700 while the lowest net fares for the same flights start at $600. You would be able to purchase airfare at the $600 price and save clients over $1,000, even after marking it up. Since less of their budget had to be sacrificed for airfare, clients have more money to spend on commissionable vacation extras.

Airline consolidators can help reveal the difference between these net and published fares. Sky Bird Travel & Tours, for example, benefits travel agents with a booking engine that lets them compare net and published fares simultaneously, giving you a glimpse at how much booking online is costing your clients.

Online Company May Show Clients a Better Deal

Then there are times where the online booking company does have a better deal on airfare, but this doesn’t necessarily mean it is better for your clients. Additional costs like bag check, travel insurance, and cancellation penalties can make what initially seemed like a great deal a pricey plane ticket. Clients also won’t get the opportunity to experience the value and simplicity a travel agent brings to the booking process and assume they can book all future travel online, contributing to the idea that agents are no longer relevant.

The Takeaway

Online flight-booking companies have made it easier than ever for consumers to secure their own airfare, but that ease comes with room for error. As the travel agent, you can benefit clients immensely by booking their airfare as part of your services. This ensures they get a good deal and the arrangements fit perfectly into their itinerary. At the same time, you can make commission on airfare and leave clients with the memory of service that eliminated all the stressors of trip planning so, come next vacation, they will be sure to consult you instead of the internet.

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