5 reasons to use a travel advisor to book air

Norwegian Airlines 787 at OAK (c) 2019 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Note: I am not an air agent. I specialize in luxury hotel bookings. Want the best luxury hotel in Paris or London given your preferences, I can help with that decision. And I'll get you value-added hotel amenities for no extra cost — like complimentary daily breakfast for two, $100 hotel credits, and sometimes upgrades even at the time of booking. For air bookings, I turn to my colleagues at Brownell Travel's Air Desk or Virtuoso Air.

Here are five reasons to use an experienced air advisor, especially for complicated international itineraries. Inexperienced consumers, armed only with the internet, often make expensive mistakes, all in the attempt to save money.

1. Connections that make sense. Is that connection long enough (or is it too long)? Should you avoid connecting at that particular airport? Is there a non-stop flight you should consider instead? An experienced travel advisor will sweat questions like these so you don’t have to.
  • While that 50 minute connection at CDG might be legal, your dash through the immigration and the airport will be stressful and tiring ... with a high chance you'll miss your connection.
  • Will you have to switch terminals? Passengers who switch terminals at LHR have to wait in long queues just to catch the shuttle bus between terminals.
  • Beware of itineraries that make you change airports. Some options that come up on the British Airways website require taking a 35 mile bus ride from Heathrow to Gatwick (good luck during rush hour!). Always look for an alternative, even if it costs more.

2. Be protected in case you misconnect. I've read many stories about unknowing travelers who've done something like the following: After searching the internet to find the absolute lowest price, they bought one ticket on British Airways to London, then bought a separate ticket on AirFrance to connect to Paris.  They are unaware of how much can go wrong. Always book your connecting flights on the same airline (or their partner airline) and ensure they're on the same ticket. It's then the airline's problem if you misconnect. If your connecting flights are ticketed separately, you'll be out of luck:
  • If you miss your connection, your non-refundable ticket is void, and you’ll have to buy a new ticket at the full, non-discounted, last-minute fare.
  • Good luck if you intend to check your baggage to the final destination. You'll be in for an unpleasant surprise if the two airlines do not have inter-airline baggage agreements. You'll need to go through immigration, retrieve your checked baggage, check in again at the front of the airport, then re-enter immigration and security all over again. If you miss your connecting flight, you'll have to buy a full-fare ticket.
An experienced air agent will protect you from mistakes like this.

3. Flight monitoring. What happens when there's a schedule mishap? if your flight across the Atlantic is delayed, and it appears you'll miss your connecting flight, there's nothing you can do from the middle of the ocean. But an experienced air agent can monitor your flights and solve the problem before you even know something's wrong.

4. Time, money, and comfort. You will pay a service fee when using an air agent, but it can still save you time and money. Here are some possible ways you can benefit:
  • Hate paying for seat assignments on BA? A savvy air agent can do this with no fee.
  • Sometimes booking a code-share saves on taxes and fees.
  • Is there a better itinerary that google flights doesn't know?
  • Sometimes it pays to put all legs of a multi-segment itinerary on one ticket. Sometimes it pays to split the flights up among several tickets.
  • Do you want a flight with a true lie-flat business class seat?
An expert air agent can advise about all these issues.

5. Intelligent, coordinated travel planning. Your flights and itinerary should coordinate to provide you the most convenient connections available. An expert travel advisor, working on your behalf throughout the entire planning process, can ensure your trip flows as smoothly as possible.

Note, I'm talking here about expert air agents. Just because someone works at a travel agency doesn’t mean they know what they're doing. I read a post yesterday on fodors.com. This traveler wanted to spend a week in Paris, then visit Spain or Portugal. But, she wrote the forum asking for advice, “our travel agency wants us to return home from Paris.” She apparently wandered into a travel agency and sat down at the desk of someone who didn't know what they were doing.

Here are some questions you should ask when choosing a travel advisor:
  • Are you a member of the Virtuoso network? Using a Virtuoso travel advisor is the only way you can enjoy exclusive Virtuoso amenities at over 1300 luxury hotels and resorts around the world.
  • Are you experienced with booking international air or — if not — do you have access to international air experts at your agency?
copyright (c) 2019 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

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