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Heading off travel hassles

Airport misadventures are most likely to occur at the time when they’re least welcome: the holiday season. Here’s how to clear the air for your customers

With visions of Grandma’s green bean casserole dancing in his head, your customer isn’t going to be happy when he finds out, en route to Thanksgiving dinner, that the plane is delayed till Black Friday.

Other sources of air travel frustration: not being able to get a seat on a homeward bound plane or having to choose between buying plane tickets and buying Christmas or Hanukkah presents because the fares are just too expensive.

The good news is that you can get your customers home for the holidays—with some clever maneuvering.

Here are four tricks for making sure their most special days of the year are spent with their loved ones—not a bunch of irate strangers in a crowded airport.

1. Choose air routes wisely
‘Tis the season for airplane delays—or not. In some regions of the country, one positive outcome—if you could call it that—of the economic decline this holiday season is fewer predicted delays due to a decrease in bookings, according to delay forecaster K.C. Brown of Delaycast. In other less lucky hubs, your customers are expected to face delays like they’ve never seen before.

“If there’s a mechanical problem with a plane and there’s not another flight available due to the cutbacks in capacity, there will be a tremendous cascading effect and people will get stranded,” Brown says. “Something as simple as a pilot getting a flat tire can have a similar impact if there’s not another pilot available to take over the flight—a possibility given the layoffs.”

One way to prevent these disasters is to research the likelihood that a particular route will be delayed before you book your customer’s itinerary. Check predictions and search online for delay forecast Web sites.

2. Have a ‘Plan B’
So you try to avoid delays, and they happen anyway. You can still do some fancy footwork to make sure they get to their destination—one way or the other. Should a customer call you stranded at the airport, you can quickly present them with a “Plan B” of alternate ways of getting where they need to go. Finding alternate transportation is easy with products like Amadeus All Fares which features both an alternate airport/radius option and alternate dates of departure. Your Plan B could also include road maps in case driving to their destination—or another airport—makes more sense than waiting out a flight delay.

Of course, not all customers will be willing to drive an hour to use a different airport. Store your customers’ preferences so you’ll know which airports to suggest should this issue arise in the future. It’s easy to save information in your customers’ profiles in Amadeus Selling Platform.

3. Find them a seat on a “sold-out” flight
Forget about avoiding delays—just getting a seat on a plane during peak season is an impressive feat. There are more than 2.6 million fewer seats available on flights during the holiday season than there were last year at the same time, according to analysis by USA Today. This represents an 11% drop.

By booking air through Amadeus, though, you might be able to get them on flights that register as “sold out” under different GDS searches. Amadeus Air offers last seat availability on more than 320 different airlines. This number is significantly higher than the airlines offering last seat availability through other GDSs.

4. Get them the cheap seats
Sometimes it isn’t seat availability that’s the issue—it’s the increase in the cost of flying. Fares for flying around Thanksgiving and Christmas are up more than 30% over 2007 fares, according to Microsoft Farecast Live. Combined with the increased cost of groceries, gas and utilities, plus all of those holiday gifts, spending the money to fly home to carol with Aunt Bessie might not be an option this year.

Be quick on the uptake if a customer tells you the cost of airfare is what’s keeping her from flying this season. Using Amadeus All Fares, you can identify consolidator fares, the best rates on Amadeus fares as well as non-Amadeus flights from low-cost carriers.

Another approach is to identify less expensive days to travel. Using the alternate date option on Amadeus All Fares, you’ll be able to identify the most economical dates to fly. Suggest your customers extend their stay by flying out earlier than planned or leaving a few days later—if they are worried about putting family members out by a longer visit, recommend a nearby hotel.

“Getting your customers home to the warmth of the family dinner table is the best gift you can give this holiday season,” says Tom Cates, chief commercial officer for Amadeus North America. “The holidays are a time for family, reflection and celebration. Travel agents who make it easier for their customers to spend the season with their loved ones are providing priceless customer service.”

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